Follow The Leader

As the act of kneeling becomes mainstream, let's not forget the man who lost much because of it.

Follow The Leader


The First Amendment, within the Bill of Rights protects your right to assemble and express your views through protest. During the Revolutionary War, there was a display of protest in 1773 called the Boston Tea Party. This is where men who called themselves the ‘Sons of Liberty’ boarded ships and dumped tea into the harbor in retaliation of the 1773 Tea Act. (Those same men were dressed in Native American garb which is most certainly racist) That one instance notably gets a spotlight, but did you know there were others in places like Philadelphia and New York? The right to protest is embedded within the DNA of this country. If you ask someone about the Boston Tea Party, it’s often looked at as a cool, almost-punkish act of defiance.

Yet, that same right to protest is looked upon fonder depending upon the type of people who weld such rights. There are instances throughout American history where people of color have died from protests to try to exist as equals. Look at the Nat Turner slave rebellion or the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. It’s a crazy dichotomy that some had to lose a life in reference to exercise their right to enact demonstration. Or in recent history, lose their jobs.

Many have taken to the streets trying to convince the world that black lives matter. Former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick started his protest during the playing of the National Anthem in 2016 highlighting injustices of police brutality. Afterward, he met with former Green Beret Nate Boyer and reached a compromise. That’s where the kneeling during the national anthem started - a fact which is often ignored. This is why the initial comments from New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees struck me as out of touch. I’m sure many others have shared his views on displays during the National Anthem.

If a former Green Beret can agree on not only the method of protest, but why the protest is occurring - it has to be that people are choosing to be willful ignorance. In football, the quarterback is looked upon as the leader of the team. It’s a shame that Kaepernick, a man who took a stand to show the plights of people is gridlocked out of a profession that he’s well qualified to do. At least, that’s what I envision a leader to be. A person who does the right thing even in the angry gazes of many.

Brees has since apologized for his initial comments, but he has spoken about his late grandfather who has fought in WW2. 125,000 African American troops fought in WW2 and not only did they experience segregation fighting the war, but they did also coming home. Where white soldiers were hailed as heroes, black soldiers went back to not being allowed to drink at the same fountains or eat at the same restaurants. Duality is often the story of America. Some enjoy it. Others get the leftovers at the dinner table - if they are even allowed at the table.

Fast forward to 2020; it seems as though kneeling is accepted. It’s mainstream! During protests, cops and protestors alike both have taken a knee and I find this particularly interesting in two ways:

  1. Isn’t it a little morbid to be kneeling for over eight minutes to show solidarity in the memory of how a man got killed? Why does it take a hard instance of black death for people to finally see the light?
  2. When did kneeling become the new thing that the ‘cool kids’ did? Over four years ago it was frowned upon. Now it’s like ‘planking’ which is missing the point yet again.

Pioneers who go over the hill first have the most arrows in their backs. While it seems like the NFL and the world is starting to come around - the fact still remains. Colin Kaepernick has not had a job in the NFL since the 2017 league year resumed on March 9th. During his continued mission of philanthropy, it’s met by silence from NFL authority figures and has been called a ‘son a bitch.’ It’s easy for Roger Goodell to come out and make a statement to say that the NFL was wrong and that they are listening. Where are the voices of the owners? That’s who we want to hear from the most. Will Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones retract his statement that any players disrespecting’ the flag won’t play? For a league that has had many problems with things like domestic violence, why does the NFL continue to be adamant to keep the door shut on a figure like Colin Kaepernick?

Are we finally at the point where we talk about the causes of racism other than the symbol we upheld that have a different meaning to everyone? For a country that totes the rolls of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - we do a bad job at ensuring everybody has it. that we need to cultivate a society in which everyone can thrive so that demonstrations such as this are not needed.

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. As we all kneel now, let’s not forget why he kneeled.