Almost four years ago to the day Colin Kaepernick first sat during the national anthem in an NFL game, that sit became a kneel and that kneel became a movement.
Days after Jacob Blake was heartlessly and ruthlessly shot seven times in the back by a police officer, NBA, WNBA, MLB, and MLS players are using Kaepernick as inspiration to temporarily sit out entirely of games. The Detroit Lions and Washington Football Team, formerly the Washington Redskins until only recently, of the NFL have also suspended their teams training camps with more teams suspected to follow. In the NBA this is particularly poignant timing as it comes in the middle of one of the most hotly contested playoffs in years.
The message made is clear and powerful, especially in the NBA where the vast majority of players are black and the vast majority of team owners are white, sports cannot continue whilst black people are unlawfully shot by the police.
The NHL was the only major American sports league to not immediately postpone fixtures in the wake of Jacob Blake’s shooting. Matt Duma, the first NHL player to kneel during the national anthem, called it “sad and disheartening” to see the NHL “last to the party on these topics” again.
Kenny Smith, former NBA player, and current TNT analyst was one of many journalists to gave emotional statements conveying horror and disappointment. Though most telling of all, not surprise. He later walked off the set during the live broadcast in solidarity with the NBA players and other sportsmen and women.
Four years ago when Kaepernick knelt during the anthem debate raged across American sports media over the rightness or wrongness of his actions, with many asking if what he did was patriotic? Kaepernick ultimately lost his job as the Quarterback of the SanFrancisco 49ers and has never made it back into the league. Today though no such debate should be needed, every single player who has decided to not play is fulfilling their patriotic duty.
The NBA has now held talks among the remaining teams and decided to finish the season. Lebron James, arguably the greatest athlete ever let alone basketball player and the man who Laura Ingraham famously told to “shut up and dribble”, with the rest of the LA Lakers and the LA Clippers originally were the only two teams to not want to continue the season. Other players like Draymond Green, of the Golden State Warriors who are not in the playoffs, have said that to suspend the season would have taken away the platform of players to make a change and take a stance.
The NBA has so far allowed all of its players to add statements on social justice to their jerseys alongside their names for the playoffs, with many choosing statements such as “Equality” or “Say her name”, concerning the killing of Breonna Taylor. After the player strike the NBA has now agreed to set up a social justice collation of players, coaches and governors. As well as agreeing to convert all stadiums into voting stations in the up coming General election and create advertising space in the remaining playoff games to promote civic engagement with local and national elections.
As the season comes to a close all the players and staff will continue to make such statements and support the fight for racial inequality. It is expected that other sports will follow. Whilst only a few games will have been lost in total now, it is clear the message and a precedent has been set.
Four years ago Colin Kaepernick ended his career by kneeling during the American National Anthem to protest police brutality. His actions were beyond brave and have inspired America sports men and women to take the stands they do today.
One hopes his actions continue to empower sportsmen and women into the future to demand justice and end racial inequality.