As the nation has become increasingly divided, traditionally unifying acts of patriotism, like standing for the national anthem, have become partisan. The anthem controversy was first sparked in 2016, when then-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick politicized “The Star-Spangled Banner” when he refused to stand because, according to Kaepernick, America “oppresses” minorities and allows its cops to “murder” innocent people of color.
The protest has spilled into other sports, like women’s soccer and professional basketball — where the Mavs have completely shunned the song altogether.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told Steve Wyche of NFL Media at the start of his protest, back in 2016. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
“This is not something that I am going to run by anybody,” he continued. “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
As an expression of protest against police, Kaepernick famously wore socks at practice in 2016 that depicted police officers as pigs.
“I wore these socks, in the past, because the rogue cops that are allowed to hold positions in police departments, not only put the community in danger, but also put the cops that have the right intentions in danger by creating an environment of tension and mistrust,” Kaepernick wrote in defending the “pig cops” socks on Instagram.
In November 2019, after skipping a workout/tryout organized by the NFL, Kaepernick, a multimillionaire endorsed by Nike, attended his own workout in a “Kunta Kinte” t-shirt, comparing himself to a defiant slave from the movie “Roots.” The film showcases an iconic scene wherein Kunta Kinte is whipped by his master for refusing to acknowledge his slave name, Toby.