The Power of Kneeling: Athletes of the Black Power Movement

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Protests in opposition to police brutality and civil injustices date back to the late 1960s and carry over into the early 1970s. From these protests the Black Power Movement was born, which operated in an attempt to counteract the effects of white hegemony, otherwise known and seen as the superiority of whites and oppression of the black race which was highly prevalent within society. This movement, which had both political and social influences, was led by advocates who fought for equality for the African American race as a whole. At one point these protests were simply forgotten events of the past. Recently, however, societal issues have produced protests and movements that closely resemble those which occurred decades ago. Especially seen in the world of sports, respected athletes are more frequently using their fame to influence the public to join in their silent movements which signify a determination to fight for equality.

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Athletes of the Black Power Movement in the 60s such as Tommie Smith, John Carlos, and Muhammad Ali, as well as athletes today Lebron James and Colin Kaepernick are a number of athletes in particular who have used their athletic fame in order to draw attention to the inequalities African Americans have faced or are still facing today. As an avid fan of sports, I’ve seen this controversial issue continuously grow into one of the most talked about things on TV, as one of the most public protests of all time. This protest is the kneeling of NFL players during the National Anthem, which has sparked discussion all around the country. One of those athletes talked about earlier who took notice of the police brutalities and inequalities facing African Americans, happened to be a star quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers named Colin Kaepernick.

Police brutality has become an incredibly polarizing and contentious issue in America. Widespread videos showing policemen shooting and killing unarmed black men, illustrate the brutality that black people in America must contend with when dealing with some police officers- who often do not serve any prison time for pulling the trigger. He first started protesting early in the 2016-2017 NFL season, by just sitting on the bench during the National Anthem. This didn’t receive much attention, so Kaepernick decided to go one step further by taking a knee. He said by doing this, he was showing more respect for military personnel of all kinds. This became the iconic poise for many other players who joined Kaepernick in his protest against police brutality affecting the African American race. Everyone who took part in the action was criticized by people who thought the protest was disrespectful to the United States. Kaepernick stated in a press conference, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people, and people of color. 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 issue of kneeling is very similar to John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s raised fist protest back in the 60’s. As a kid I grew up watching and loving football, there wasn't a better day of week than Sunday. I remember the countless Sundays I would just sit on the couch with my dad and brother for hours, unable to move our eyes from the screen. With this protest being as big as it is, it has affected my football loving family. As I do believe in the message these players are trying to send, I can’t agree with how they are doing it. These athletes should and can use their fame in another way instead disrespecting the national anthem. Lebron James spoke at the ESPY’s in order to bring the much needed notice to the inequalities the African American race has faced through the centuries. This is a way I believe these athletes can protest without the drama of “disrespecting our country”. Many owners such as Jerry Jones and star players such as Dak Prescott have come out and said this exact thing. I was truly a happy fan when I heard these two men stick up for the national anthem the way they did.

The societal issues that afflict our minority communities today, very closely resemble the prejudice and inequality that was experienced decades ago. This unfair treatment of minorities, specifically African Americans, is one which has not caused our generation to come together more closely but rather become even more conflicted. Lebron James and Colin Kaepernick are a number of well-respected athletes who have used their athletic standings in order to influence the public to come together as one and fight for equality. These public protests, however, cannot trump the amount of brutality and inequality that exists in our society if we do not come together as one to fight for our fellow citizens. This fight is not about one man being black and one being white, but rather the widespread realization that we are all humans on one earth.

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