In August 2016, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick attracted attention by sitting on the San Francisco 49ers bench as the pregame national anthem was being played. He told reporters he was protesting America’s systemic racism and police brutality against minorities.
One football player suggested that, rather than sitting on the bench to protest, he should simply kneel among his teammates. Although other players joined Kaepernick, NFL players’ “taking a kneel” didn’t explode into the national headlines until the 2017 season. Although Kaepernick had parted ways with the 49ers in March 2017, and had not been picked up by another team, the protest he had begun a year earlier carried on.
“Duck Dynasty” stars Willie Robertson and his wife, Korie Robertson, debated the issue with current and former NFL players Arian Foster, Michael Thomas and Nate Boyer, on the latest episode of their Facebook Watch series “At Home With the Robertsons” in the video below.
Foster is a former NFL running back and a rap musician, Thomas is a Houston Texans safety and Boyer is a former NFL player and U.S. Army green beret.
Boyer mentioned Kaepernick had called him in 2016 to ask if he could think of another way he could protest that wouldn’t offend people in the military?
Boyer said he’d told Kaepernick, “If you’re asking my opinion, I think being alongside your teammates would be an important gesture, potentially, and the only thing that seems to make logical sense, if you’re committed to not standing, would be taking a knee.”
Thus, the tradition of “taking a knee” was born.
He continued, “I think that’s respectful … People take a knee to pray, to propose to their future spouse …”
Yeah … no.
Korie said that the discussion had tempered her previous view of kneeling as disrespectful. “The guys made the point that this is not hating America,” she said. “This is a specific protest about police brutality and injustice against black people. Once that came out and that message was kind of understood, people were more accepting of it, where at first it just felt like a total, just like, rejection of America and the values that we hold.”
Her husband Willie, however, remained unpersuaded by the debate. He said, “Personally, I don’t have a problem if someone wants to wear a logo. It’s when they got to the flag, of choosing that exact time to make your protest, I just felt like the flag should really bring us together … yeah and that just feels a little un-American.”
He brought up the very valid point that people watching a football game don’t want to hear about politics. “I understand, though, wanting to change for sure. It’s just like, is that the best time, you know? The flag and even, for me, football — when I watch football like I don’t want to be thinking about who the president is and what the politics are. I just want to watch, you know, either my favorite team or two teams go after it.”
Thomas, who is black, disagreed, explaining that football players are “looked at as leaders” in their communities and believes black players should use their voice and their platform to raise awareness on issues affecting black Americans.
He said, “Everybody who took a knee, everybody who was fighting for social justice and using their voice and platform, you know — we were just trying to say, ‘Look, if we’re looked at as leaders in our community, and we can talk about, you know, stopping domestic violence; we can talk about, you know, like, raising awareness for cancer, anti-bullying and stuff like that, when it comes to issues in the African-American community, why can’t we be the leaders and the champions of that as well? And use our voice and platform and do it?'”
“Because it is when people are watching, if you have a platform and there’s a chance for you to get eyeballs on it, and you have something that’s really important to you, that’s probably a good time to do it,” said Korie.
Willie was still not buying it. He compared it to going to somebody’s wedding and promoting a public issue he felt passionate about.
“If you look at the history of this country, it was literally founded on protests, you were literally running from Britain right?” said Foster, who is also black. “You were protesting taxation, this is what this country was founded on was protests. So to say that protesting is inappropriate at any point in time is just, to me, a lack of understanding of how this country even got started … there’s nothing more fundamentally American than protest.”
Foster continued, arguing that “protest is meant to be contentious. And so you’re always going to have people oppose it or else it wouldn’t be a protest … It’s never the right time, and the disconnect between the sides of this country is, there’s people who are saying, ‘It’s not right, things aren’t right’ and other people are saying, ‘But it could be worse,’ and I’m like, ‘Well what are we here for if not to make this place better?’”
He added, “Before the game, the American flag is flying, the national anthem is playing, you’ve got aircraft flying over, you’ve got … the Navy Seals jumping out. You have what I would label as propaganda for the military and that’s literally the epitome of politics.”
I’m with Robertson on this one. We can all agree that America was founded on protest. Kaepernick and his followers did not break any laws.
As I see it, the debate really comes down to the appropriateness of “taking a kneel” during the national anthem.
It was this issue that prompted me to become a political blogger. Perhaps because I had two sons in the military at the time, this practice that drew national headlines in 2017 struck me like a ton of bricks.
I’d managed to ignore much of the material that a very liberal friend posted incessantly on Facebook until she voiced her support for Colin Kaepernick. I could not control my impulses and fired off a comment.
The backlash from her liberal friends was swift and fierce. I was told by her radical (and extremely undiplomatic) friends that I was exploiting my sons’ military service and that the players had every right to protest. Every liberal talking point came my way.
I was stunned by the vitriol being directed at me and even more so by the intensity of my own emotions over a political issue.
Feverishly, I took to my computer and began to write.
I disagree with Robertson on one point. He said that kneeling during the national anthem “feels a little un-American.”
To me, it feels supremely un-American.
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