It’s been nearly a month since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick drew notice for his silent protest, sitting on the bench during the national anthem before the Niners’ final preseason game, telling NFL Network’s Steve Wyche that he would continue to do so in protest of the oppression of African-Americans and other people of color in this country.
In the weeks since, other NFL players have joined Kaepernick, some kneeling as he now does, and others raising a fist at the end of the anthem. We’ve seen it in the WNBA, and from college and high school athletes as well, and there are now stories that NBA players will protest as well.
While there are many who refuse to acknowledge why Kaepernick and others feel they must speak up with silent gestures, there is no doubting that he has brought light to the issues of police brutality and racial inequality.
And now his stance is getting an even bigger platform.
Time magazine put the image of Kaepernick, kneeling during the anthem before San Francisco’s Monday night season opener, on its cover this week, over a black background with the headline “The Perilous Fight.”
Inside, an essay from Jim McWhorter, a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, is entitled, “Colin Kaepernick had no choice but to kneel,” arguing that it has to be understood why the man is kneeling.
“The idea that to not stand while the anthem is played signals a lack of allegiance to one’s nation is simplistic to the point of stretching plausibility, seemingly designed more as a way to hate on someone than to grapple with the complexities of the real world,” McWhorter writes. “Is patriotism a matter of either/or? Perhaps in terms of military service, although we find gray lines even there.
“Elsewhere, however, critique and even scolding are fundamental facets of loving. What would be unpatriotic of Kaepernick, given his views, would be to refrain from sitting out the national anthem out of an unreflective sense of patriotism as an on/off switch. Kaepernick thinks his country is capable of changing and wants to help it do so.”
Outside of the magazine, 49ers coach Chip Kelly offered his strongest support yet of Kaepernick during his news conference on Thursday, citing the recent killings of black men at the hands of police in Tusla and Charlotte.
“He’s shedding light on a situation that is heinous and shouldn’t happen in this country,” Kelly said. “We all have inalienable rights as a citizen of this country and they’re being violated, and that’s what I think Colin is standing up for.
“It’s an issue. You look at what’s gone on in Tulsa, and in Charlotte the last two nights. It’s an issue that’s at the forefront of our country. It needs to be addressed, it needs to be taken care of, because what’s going on is not right.”
Further, Kelly noted that when he’s at the team facility, outside of the once-a-week media availability Kaepernick has done, the sixth-year veteran has been completely focused on his job.
“There hasn’t been any, ‘Hey, coach, I need time because I have this going on.’ He hasn’t done that,” Kelly said. “He understands what his job is. He’s balanced it really well and managed it really well. He’s focused. He’s dialed in when we’re at practice, he’s dialed in when we’re in meetings.”
With Blaine Gabbert struggling last week against the Carolina Panthers, there are some who believe it’s time for Kaepernick to step back into the starting role.