Colin Kaepernick’s historical protest and its controversy

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A recap of Kaepernick’s tumultuous year as the free-agency period continues

By Greg Waldock, Staff Writer


It seems like so long ago, but Colin Kaepernick’s famous refusal to stand during the American national anthem only happened just last year.

Kaepernick refused to stand during the American national anthem for the entirety of the 2016 NFL season, instead kneeling and raising a solitary fist to protest the unfair treatment of black people in America, specifically regarding police brutality and institutionalized racism. His actions were met with both controversy from many viewers, and praise from activists around the world.

The association between football and American patriotism played a large role in Kaepernick’s protest. For many Americans, refusing to honour the national anthem is tantamount to treason. After his first demonstration, many blogs sites and social media users even used “treason” to describe Kaepernick’s actions. US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg described his protest as “dumb and disrespectful,” but apologized for her statement shortly after.

Reportedly, Kaepernick faced a large amount of criticism from the NFL itself, as players and organization officials pressured him to apologize or resign. His ongoing protests may be a large factor in how he has continued to be unsigned as the NFL free-agency period carries on.

However, the response was not universally negative. He received considerable praise and support from activist movement Black Lives Matter, as well as from prominent athletes around the world, including American soccer player Megan Rapinoe and many of Kaepernick’s fellow NFL players. He also gained vocal support from then-President Barack Obama, who said he was “exercising his constitutional right” and “generating conversation.”

Kaepernick created further controversy during the 2016 election, when he announced his refusal to vote for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, on the grounds that regardless of the victor, “the system remains intact that oppresses people of colour,” and for his praise for Fidel Castro in regards to the structuring of the Cuban prison system.

Many question whether Kaepernick will be on a team come the start of the season. Last year proved that he is still capable of playing at the NFL level, but teams may simply not be willing to take the PR risk by signing him. This could very well be the end of the line for the controversial quarterback.