- The Washington Times - Monday, September 12, 2016

In a society obsessed with memes gone viral, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s stand — rather, his “sit” — for civil rights was probably destined to take off — and over the weekend, from high school fields to college stadiums to NFL palaces across the country, it did.

Kaepernick, a backup who has become the most-talked-about football player in the league after refusing to stand during the national anthem, made watching pregame sidelines must-see television during the NFL’s opening weekend. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” the bi-racial Kaepernick said last month.

In Seattle on Sunday, the Seahawks, which had publicly stated earlier in the week that its players would show their support for Kaepernick’s anti-police brutality message without disrespect for the flag, locked arms with one another during the anthem.

“We are a team comprised of individuals with diverse backgrounds,” wide reciever Doug Baldwin said in a video released before their game against the Dolphins. “And, as a team, we have chosen to stand and interlock arms in unity. We honor those who have fought for the freedom we cherish. And we stand to ensure … justice for all people. Progress can and will be made only if we stand together.”

On the other side of the field, Miami players Arian Foster, Michael Thomas, Kenny Stills and Jelani Jenkins, who played against the Seahawks, all opted to take a knee.

The Dolphins released a statement following the players’ actions.

“We encourage all members of our organization to stand at attention during the national anthem out of respect and appreciation for the freedoms we are afforded as Americans,” the Dolphins said. “We also recognize that it’s an individual’s right to reflect during the anthem in different ways. We respect these liberties and appreciate the sacrifices that everyone has made for our country, especially on this day of remembrance.”

In Kansas City, the Chiefs chose to interlock arms as well, and cornerback Marcus Peters, and the end of the line of red jerseys, raised his fist during the entire duration of the anthem — a moment reminiscent of the black power salute of sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968.

“I love being black, and I’m supporting Colin as far as what he’s doing as far as raising awareness with the justice system,” Peters said following the game. “I didn’t mean anything by it. I locked arms with my teammates. I talked to coach. Coach said it was OK if I wanted to express my thoughts.”

Additionally, New England Patriots players Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty raised their fists while they stood for the anthem. The Patriots were featured in the Sunday Night football matchup against the Arizona Cardinals in Phoenix.

And the Kaepernick protest has spread beyond the NFL.

U.S. international soccer player and Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who recently took a knee during the anthem, said that as a gay American, she supports Kaepernick’s stand. Additionally, a number of high school football players are choosing to take a knee during the anthem — including many players from Maury High School in Norfolk, VA., according to USA Today.

For others, the Kaepernick protest has touched a raw nerve.

Ted Cruz took to Twitter to voice his concern over the timing of the protests, calling for a boycott against “rich spoiled athletes” that choose protest during the anthem and their sponsored products.

John Tortorella, the head coach of Team USA for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, said if any of his players choose to sit during the anthem, they will be benched for the entirety of a game.

And Minnesota Vikings offensive guard Alex Boone, a former teammate of Kaepernick’s, said that NFL players should show “(expletive) respect for people who served” during the anthem.

Foster, the Dolphins ballcarrier, believes players have the right to take a knee during the anthem.

“It’s not about a knee, it’s not about the symbology, it’s about the message,” Foster said. “They say it’s not the time to do this. Well, when is the time? It’s never the time in somebody else’s eyes because they’ll always feel like it’s good enough, and some people don’t. And that’s the beautiful thing about this country. If somebody feels it’s not good enough, they have their right, and that’s all we’re doing is exercising that right.”

Kaepernick himself has modified his protest to be more respectful of the anthem and what it represents. Originally, Kaepernick sat down in protest, but after a conversation with former Green Beret and NFL long snapper Nate Boyer. Kaepernick decided to take a knee instead.

Since Kaepernick’s protest begun, his jersey sales have skyrocketed. His jersey is now the most purchased jersey in the NFL over the last two weeks. Kaepernick pledged to donate his proceeds from the increase in sales, and he has also pledged to donate his first $1 million in salary to activist groups.

“I’ve been very blessed to be in this position and make the kind of money I do, and I have to help these people,” Kaepernick said last week, according to The Undefeated. “I have to help these communities. It’s not right that they’re not put in the position to succeed or given the opportunities to succeed.”

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