The national anthem blared over the loudspeakers of Levi’s Stadium on Sept. 1, 2016. During the national anthem, one player was not standing with everyone else.
Colin Kaepernick, who was the 49ers quarterback, sat peacefully on the bench on Sept. 1. Kaepernick wanted to kneel, not for what the flag represented, but for African Americans and other minorities in the United States.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said, to an NFL.com reporter. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”
After Kaepernick knelt, Jeremy Lane, who played for the Seattle Seahawks, also knelt. Then, more athletes began kneeling during the national anthem, across the country. But Kaepernick and other players have faced backlash from fans, players and even President Donald Trump.
When Kaepernick started kneeling, the president took notice. After Kaepernick knelt, President Trump talked about what he would do at a rally.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of those NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a gun off the field right now,’” Trump said. “‘He’s fired.’ You know, some owner is going to do that.”
But the controversy still continued through the 2016-17 season.
Since kneeling in 2016, Kaepernick has donated over $1 million different charities. In 2018, he became the face for Nike’s 30th “Just Do It” Anniversary ad campaign. While in the NFL, its national anthem policy is being changed.
Before the 2018 NFL season began, NFL owners met with the NFL Players Association to talk about the policy. The policy gave the players two choices: stand for the national anthem or wait in the locker room. But according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the agreement was unlikely.
“The new policy is going to be no policy — at least for this season,” Schefter said. “An NFL official insisted Sunday morning that there is continuing dialogue on the topic as the league looks for ways to address social justice issues.”
As the season continues still, many current NFL players protest peacefully, either kneeling on the sidelines or sitting in the locker rooms.