With so much focus on NFL players choosing to kneel during the National Anthem, many people have said the act is a silent protest, and does not point to any disrespect for the flag. However, the most prominent player to kneel, as he received a massive amount of attention when he started it last year, was former San Francisco 49ers’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who admitted it was, indeed, a protest against the flag.
Kaepernick stated that he began kneeling because he had no desire to “show pride in a flag” which represented a faulty country: the United States of America. He went on to say and do things which not only insulted the U.S. flag, the National Anthem, and the military, but he also lashed out at the police, celebrated the socialist policies of Fidel Castro and expressed his admiration for militant radical Malcom X.
Looking back to the beginning of the 2016 NFL season, Kaepernick initially stated that he knelt in response to the “systemic oppression against people of color [and] police brutality.” Then, during an exclusive interview with NFL.com, he said: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” Kaepernick added. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick has stated he believes that racism exists within the justice and legal system of the United States, which leads to the murder of innocent black Americans at the hands of those who represent the government. The flag, which represents the country, is not worthy of respect, therefore, the country is not worthy of respect, he has claimed.
His comments openly illustrate that his refusal to stand was meant as a protest against the flag.
When Kaepernick began his protest, former president Barack Hussein Obama was in office.
Beyond the flag protest, Kaepernick chose to wear a pair of disrespectful and controversial socks, during practice in September 2016. The socks featured pigs wearing police hats.
When questioned about the socks, which were taken as a statement against police officers, Kaepernick said: “I wore these socks, in the past, because the rogue cops that are allowed to hold positions in police departments, not only put the community in danger, but also put the cops that have the right intentions in danger by creating an environment of tension and mistrust. I have two uncles and friends who are police officers and work to protect and serve ALL people. So before these socks, which were worn before I took my public stance, are used to distract from the real issues, I wanted to address this immediately.”
Nearly a year later, in June of 2016, Kaepernick compared the police to the runaway slave patrol. In a tweet, he posted an image of a modern police badge beside a slave patrol badge. His tweet read: “A system that perpetually condones the killing of people, without consequence, doesn’t need to be revised, it needs to be dismantled!”
A system that perpetually condones the killing of people, without consequence, doesn’t need to be revised, it needs to be dismantled! pic.twitter.com/BVVPVZIQyD
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) June 16, 2017
He also spoke out at the time, saying: “There is police brutality. People of color have been targeted by police. So that’s a large part of it and they’re government officials. They are put in place by the government. So that’s something that this country has to change. There’s things we can do to hold them more accountable. Make those standards higher.”
Kaepernick also showed disrespect for the military. During one of the occasions he knelt during the 2016 season, the 49ers were playing against the San Diego Chargers. At the time, they were holding their 28th annual “Salute to the Military,” which is the team’s way of “paying tribute to hundreds of thousands of current and retired military personnel who live and work in San Diego.”
With 240 military members on the field, Kaepernick and a teammate knelt behind them during the singing of the anthem.
Then, in November of 2016, Kaepernick wore a T-shirt emblazoned with photos from a 1960 meeting between Malcolm X and Fidel Castro during a news conference. Castro was the former and now deceased leader of the socialist state under Communist Party rule in Cuba. A reporter from the Miami Herald, Armando Salguero, was “born into Cuba’s imprisonment,” and he took particular offense over the shirt. In an article, he explains:
“Cuba for more than five decades under the Castros has stifled practically any and all dissent. According to Human Rights Watch, ‘Cuban citizens have been systematically deprived of their fundamental rights to free expression, privacy, association, assembly, movement, and due process of law. Tactics for enforcing political conformity have included police warnings, surveillance, short-term detentions, house arrests, travel restrictions, criminal prosecutions, and politically motivated dismissals from employment.'”
For Salguero, Kaepernick’s choice of apparel was upsetting, and he wonders in his piece if the quarterback is against oppression as he says he is, why then did he wear the “Castro shirt when the tyrant is demonstrably a star on the world’s All Oppressor team?”
Kaepernick praised Cuban dictator Castro and stated US should learn from Cuba: https://t.co/s7NzIpulW8
— Kate (@catydoodle) September 25, 2017
I wrote this last year.https://t.co/obdzjQH7x4
— Justen Charters (@JustenCharters) September 26, 2017
Kaepernick says he believes that some of Castro’s policies, including universal healthcare paid by the government, were sound. But he said he wore the shirt mainly because it was a historic moment for Malcom X, one of the people he admires a lot.
Malcom X was was an African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist. Admireers loved him because he took a courageous stance for the rights of blacks in America. Yet he also charged all of white America with racism, and preached that violence was sometimes the answer.
“There will be more violence than ever this year,” he told a New York Times reporter in 1964. “The whites had better understand this while there is still time. The negroes at the mass level are ready to act.”
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