Randall Williams | Sports Editor
Colin Kaepernick’s name over the past year has remained a frequent subject of discussion when it comes to the NFL. His protest over the racial inequality and social injustice has heard plenty of praise but also a significant amount of disapproval as well.
The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback aimed to spread awareness of the topics by kneeling during the national anthem last season.
“Kaepernick [was] not trying to disrespect fallen soldiers that have fought to protect the country for what it is today,” Hampton University sophomore Preston Randolph said this week. “He only wants equality and fairness.”
A week after the media frenzy began, Kaepernick’s jersey sales skyrocketed to the top, making him at the time the No. 1-selling jersey in the NFL. Time passed, and talk of protesting the league until he stood began.
The ratings of NFL games dropped 8 percent in January, according to Rolling Stone magazine. Many owners across the league believed this was due to the protests started by the onetime Super Bowl quarterback.
Kaepernick was released in March, and he has yet to be signed. The word “blackball” was mentioned often. Celebrities such as rapper and producer J. Cole, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett and basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley are just a few notable names in a sea full of people who say NFL owners have ostracized Kaepernick. Others believe that since his former team has not been producing, there is no reason to sign him.
President Donald Trump in March gave his own explanation on why Kaepernick remained unsigned. Trump’s reasoning was that “NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet.”
Six months later, the president’s attack was more personal than ever. Trump attended an Alabama rally in support of Luther Strange on Sept. 23 and said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of [an expletive] off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”
The comment was extremely unexpected. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was one of the first to respond the following day, saying, “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL.” From there, an array of responses occurred from players and celebrities.
This was Saturday, though, and when Sunday came, the whole world waited to see how NFL teams would react as organizations. Division was the result. Teams kneeled together. Teams locked arms. Three teams stayed in the locker room. Some teams were split in between standing and taking a knee. Trump, however, did not back down, and instead sent another load of tweets reiterating his point that everyone should stand.
A day passed, and then the Dallas Cowboys were the center of attention. Jerry Jones, owner of “America’s Team,” was also a point of focus. This was due to his avid support of Trump over the past two years in his run as a politician, even donating $1 million. The team knelt and locked arms, all while being booed by the crowd.
People who did not agree with protests during the anthem began using the hashtag “I Stand” on social media and also discussed boycotting the NFL until the players stand. The NFL was already being boycotted by some American citizens for Kaepernick’s unemployment.
So two sides who oppose each other are now doing the same thing to try to cripple the nation’s most popular sport.
“I feel because of Trump’s comments towards the NFL [that] people are now missing the point of why the knee was taken in the first place,” Hampton student Kevin Monday said.
Has America become lost in Trump’s comments? Is the U.S. forgetting the purpose of the original protest? Although there are individual players such as Bennett, Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and more who have remained kneeling for the original cause, there is a discrepancy.
Since teams in Week 3 took a knee following Trump’s comments, the impression was conveyed that they are kneeling out of humiliation by the president.
A humiliation that was met without a response would have been an embarrassment. To avoid this, the league responded accordingly.