Taking a Knee — Why Are NFL Players Kneeling and What Does It Mean?

It all goes back to 2016 when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the US national anthem. At that moment, he might not have known what consequences he would suffer or that he would start a silent protest that’s been active ever since.

These days, it’s all everyone talks about — every NFL news outlet has at one point covered this event and discussed the possibility of it happening again. Today, Kaepernick is still banned from the NFL but is recognized as one of the fiercest civil rights activists.

So, what does “taking a knee” really mean? Today, it’s described as a peaceful protest with the goal to raise awareness of racism and police brutality. Moreover, it represents a fight for freedom of speech. Naturally, thoughts on this act have always been divided — some people commended the social awareness of the players, but on the other hand, some believed the act to be unpatriotic and disrespectful.

Since 2016, many players, first in the NFL, then other leagues and sports as well, have joined the protest. During the 2016 NFL season, fourteen players joined Kaepernick by kneeling, sitting, or raising a fist during the anthem.

In 2017, over 200 players knelt during the national anthem. Taking a knee is still a respectful gesture, so players have decided to do that instead of simply sitting during the anthem.

In 2018, the NFL introduced a policy that required all players to stand during the anthem and show respect. Additionally, teams were allowed to penalize players who took part in these demonstrations. Even though this policy remains active, there are still players who choose to kneel and show solidarity with other protestors.

In the following years, players continued to protest, though their numbers diminished somewhat, and in 2019, only three NFL players continued to protest — Eric Reid of the Carolina Panthers, Albert Wilson of the Miami Dolphins, and Kenny Stills of the Houston Texans.

Now that the NFL 2020 schedule has been announced, everyone is wondering whether these players will continue to take a knee and if more players will join them. Unfortunately, given the fact that the current situation in the US hasn’t improved, we believe there might be some new names taking a knee this season. Of course, we won’t be sure until the NFL 2020 season begins this September.

Kaepernick’s act has inspired players from all over the world to join him in protest. This protest isn’t limited only to football — soccer, baseball, ice hockey, Pan American Games, and Australian Rules football players have all knelt in solidarity with Kaepernick and other active protestors.

Some WNBA teams have protested in their own way — the LA Sparks have chosen to stay in their locker room, while their opponents, the Minnesota Lynx decided to lock arms during the anthem. This is due to the fact that the NBA has a strict policy where everyone has to stand during the anthem.

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