Colin Kaepernick stands for something. On Aug. 28 of last year he defined to the media exactly what he stands for. He said: "I'm going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change. When there's significant change and I feel that flag represents what it's supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way that it's supposed to, I'll stand." Kaepernick protested for this purpose by choosing to sit during the national anthem in the first three preseason games starting on Aug. 14, 2016. In later games he protested by kneeling.
From that time until today, his peaceful protestations have drawn attention to an issue that needs to be addressed more often and with greater urgency. I disagree with the manner in which he does so, but I do respect that he has a right to stand up (or kneel) for that which he believes in. Contrary to what many are saying, it’s not a right granted to him by the U.S. Constitution to do so at his place of employment. But it is a personal right and choice as long as the NFL allows him to do so. I’ll leave it to others to say whether the NFL should allow their players to do that because that debate isn’t the point of this article. Either way, I won’t deny the fact that I admire the passion and persistence with which Kaepernick defends his beliefs.
But the first time he protested using his NFL platform was exactly 410 days ago from time this article was written. That’s more than a year for his fellow NFL players and friends to hear his reasons and decide which side they wanted to stand or kneel on. For 13 months, Kaepernick and his reasons for protestation have been known and debated by every major news network. That topic has been the constant subject of social media grandstanding, dinner table discussions, locker room banter and was even a topic during the presidential debates.
So how many players in the NFL were won over by Kaepernick's convictions and were willing to kneel with him in the past 410 days to defend racial equality? The answer is nine. Nine men, in a league comprised of more than 1,700 players, decided to kneel with Kaepernick. This total of 10 men all stood for something, and the intentions behind their efforts should be applauded.
But what about the hundreds of players who have only recently decided to join these 10 men? Are they actually standing for racial equality or are they only trying to defy Donald Trump? The facts speak for themselves. Donald Trump speaking at an Alabama rally is the only new variable in this equation. It wasn’t another police shooting, it wasn’t the pleas of oppressed victims of racial inequality. No such occurrence of the past 410 days has bended the knees of the remaining 1,690 NFL players. It wasn’t until President Trump stated his own opinion that the rest of these players suddenly discovered their personal principles they pretend to be passionate about. Out of the blue they decided to defend racial equality after all.
These new protesters — players, owners and coaches alike, aren’t brave men of conscience defending their morals. They are like children rebelling against dad because he threatened a timeout.
I admire the reasons why Kaepernick wanted to kneel in the first place. And I admired the reasons why the rest of them abstained from doing so for more than a year. Which is why it is so tragic to me that they abandoned their resolve so easily just because President Trump said kneeling during the national anthem wasn’t appropriate “at work” behavior for an employee of the National Football League. Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant revealed his true motives for taking a knee after Monday night’s game: “I feel like that was a clear shot at Trump, sitting on our knee like that." Others have made similar statements.
Standing against Donald Trump is not the same thing as standing for racial equality — or anything else for that matter. Hillary Clinton learned that lesson the hard way in this past presidential election. Americans respect people that have the courage to defend their own convictions — even if they disagree with their reasons or method of doing so.
I respect Colin Kaepernick’s reasons and his hard-earned right to protest. I don’t respect grown men acting like children throwing a tantrum just to "take a shot" at Donald Trump. Especially when they choose to do so during our national anthem. If you aren’t going to stand for our national anthem with your hand proudly over your heart, you better have a darn good reason. Colin Kaepernick believes he has a good reason to kneel during the anthem. The rest of these players do not. They are drawing partisan lines on the football field. They have robbed the meaning behind Kaepernick’s bended knee. When he knelt it made us think of the racially oppressed. When the rest of them now kneel, we just see it as an intolerable act of defiance against the American president.
Daryl Austin is a writer, history enthusiast and business owner from Orem, Utah. He currently lives in Eagle Mountain with his wife and three daughters.