In 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, led a peaceful protest of police brutality against African-Americans. After much deliberation, Kaepernick came to the conclusion that he had an obligation to use his platform to speak out for people of color being oppressed in the United States. The quarterback began kneeling during the National Anthem before games. He said, “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.” Among the NFL players who initially supported his stance and continue to do so is Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Colin Kaepernick’s Peaceful Protest
The Guardian reported that police killed 258 black people in 2016 alone, 39 of whom were unarmed. Too often, law enforcement has racially profiled, used excessive force, and even murdered unarmed black people. Kaepernick used his voice to speak out against these injustices. He also urged others to join the fight for racial equity in America. Many NFL players joined this Black Lives Matter movement in solidarity. However, many around the league and in pop culture maintained that kneeling during the National Anthem was unacceptable. These folks were convinced the act was disparaging the American flag and all the freedom for which veterans had fought.
Kate Upton took to Instagram to share her strong opposing views: “Sitting or kneeling down during the national anthem is a disgrace to those people who have served and currently serve our country,” she said. Similarly, Rob Lowe tweeted, “Dear @NFL Any player wants to boycott the anthem on 9/11 should be asked to remain in the locker room until kick off. It’s not their moment.”
Kaepernick again tried to explain how his stance against police brutality of African Americans and people of color was not an attack on the flag:
“I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody.”
Aaron Rodgers Supported Colin Kaepernick’s Peaceful Protest Then and Now
While Aaron Rodgers admitted he didn’t feel comfortable kneeling during the anthem, he was adamant that Kaepernick and others have the right to do so. When asked multiple times, Rodgers also stated he believed the ex-49ers quarterback should be playing in the league. He said the only reason Kaepernick wasn’t playing was because of the peaceful protests.
After three recent abhorrent killings of unarmed African Americans, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, civil unrest has escalated. There have been Black Lives Matter protests in all 50 states to call for justice. Many are calling for real change and police reform. Amidst all of these recent events, New Orleans Saints quarterback, Drew Brees, stated in an interview with Yahoo Finance that he “will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.” His statement is an obvious misrepresentation of the reasoning behind Kaepernick’s kneeling protest.
Highlight: @readdanwrite asks @drewbrees what the star NFL quarterback thinks about "players kneeling again when the NFL season starts."@drewbrees: “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”
Full exchange: pic.twitter.com/MpCkFyOMed
— Yahoo Finance (@YahooFinance) June 3, 2020
Rodgers spoke out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement once again via this Instagram post:
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A few years ago we were criticized for locking arms in solidarity before the game. It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag. Not then. Not now. Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action. #wakeupamerica #itstimeforchange #loveoverfear❤️ #solidarity #libertyandjusticeforall #all
Brees has since issued an apology on his Instagram account:
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I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday. In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused. In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country. They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character. This is where I stand: I stand with the black community in the fight against systemic racial injustice and police brutality and support the creation of real policy change that will make a difference. I condemn the years of oppression that have taken place throughout our black communities and still exists today. I acknowledge that we as Americans, including myself, have not done enough to fight for that equality or to truly understand the struggles and plight of the black community. I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the black community in this movement. I will never know what it’s like to be a black man or raise black children in America but I will work every day to put myself in those shoes and fight for what is right. I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy. I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability. I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening…and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen. For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness.
Brees received backlash from more than just Aaron Rodgers. Several of his Saints teammates as well as other past and present players, even LeBron James, called his comments insensitive and tone-deaf. While an apology was absolutely warranted, it might be too little too late. After all, he still did not make clear that he understands the reason for kneeling during the National Anthem.
In response to all of this, the Packers as a team released the below video calling for change: