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Under Pressure From Players And Protesters, NFL Takes A Knee

Stephen Coles
Flickr / Creative Commons
Kaepernick mural, Uptown Oakland


The National Football League is finally listening.

It was nearly four years ago that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled before a preseason game to protest the oppression of people of color and police brutality. Some players joined him in demonstrating during the national anthem.Now remember, this was against the backdrop of the divisive 2016 presidential election. And eventually, Donald Trump began using Kaepernick’s gesture as a political football.

“Wouldn’t you like to see NFL owners say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field. He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

Less than a year after taking a knee, Kaepernick — a former Super Bowl leader still in his prime — was gone from the league. And the NFL created a policy requiring players to stand during the anthem.

But today, kneeling to protest racist violence has become a staple of demonstrations around the world. And on Thursday, last week, reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes spoke out with some of the NFL’s most celebrated figures in a video entitled “Stronger Together.”  They said they would not be silenced and asserted their right to peacefully protest.

"So on behalf of the National Football League, this is what we the players would like to hear you state. We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systemic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. We, the National Football League, believe Black lives matter."

The next day, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded by saying those exact same words.

It took 44 months, worldwide demonstrations, and demands from its most prominent players. But now the league’s commissioner is encouraging protest against systemic racism.

Ben was hired as Interim Executive Director of KALW in November, 2021.