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It's very interesting how a protest demonstration by 1 NFL player in a 2016 preseason game has evolved so much over the last 3 NFL seasons, to the point of pissing off the US President to no end and getting people to burn Nike apparel. Colin Kaepernick has certainly started an enduring conversation, but it's not exactly remained the one he originally intended on.
NFL kneeling in protest of the National Anthem is now a household concept, but it's come to mean different things to different people at different times. Here's my attempt at summarizing it all, giving my thoughts on everything and asking a few questions at the end.
In 2016, this is when the protest was used in its purest form (IMO). Then 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick sat during the national anthem in a preseason game. This was to draw attention to social issues such as police brutality and racial inequality. He later decided to kneel instead of sit, and was joined by fellow teammate Eric Reed by the end of the preseason. His demonstration drew a far amount of news coverage, backlash against him, and had a few handfuls of random NFL and MLB players joining the cause in protest, sparking what I saw as a healthy debate about exactly what Kaepernick intended, even though the conversation was also about how effective simply kneeling actually was in the real world. That's a fair question, to this day.
In 2017, things heated up, Thanks to Trump. Honestly this form of protest was dying out until Trump decided to blast Kaepernick and any other protesters during his stump speeches and twitter tirades as unpatriotic cry babies. So this woke up the masses, and turned the protests into much more than just a demonstration against social injustice for black people. Now it was that, plus a middle finger to Trump, and any other administrator or authority figure that said 'you can not do this'. Week 3 of the 2017 NFL season saw the most kneeling protests of any time during this whole ordeal, by far, including owners of teams.
In 2018, the NFL tried to police kneeling, and so far has failed. Given the backlash from Trump, Trump supporters and the patriotic masses across the country, plus everyone worried how all this was negatively affecting TV ratings and therefore the bottom line of the whole she bang, the NFL decided to put an end to the kneeling protesting by punishing anyone that did so. But that was short lived. NFL players and even administrators and coaches refused to fully comply with the new rules, and they were soon disbanded by the NFL. No current punishment is no the books for kneeling or otherwise protesting during a game, unless a team institutes it. (Think state laws vs federal laws).
So, the evolution of NFL protesting Kaepernick created is fascinating. It started off (again in my opinion) as a pure plow to insert a conversation about race and social injustice into a massively popular sporting event, one that is overwhelmingly played by the very race he wanted the spotlight on, and national conversation to be had about. And it ended up becoming yet another example of the massive division we have in this country, that is represented with a very loud minority of outrage on both sides of a heated fight, and a 50/50 split otherwise; red vs blue. Patriotic vs unpatriotic. 'Fall in line' men vs 'True rebels'. Trump supporters vs Kaepernick supporters. Yes or no on the Nike ad.
It is interesting to watch. Though in all of this, has anything really been accomplished? Has the real conversation basically been lost? Or was this always meant to end up being a microcosm of what is really ailing this country, a 50/50 division on all things at it's very core?