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COLUMN: Taking a knee is not about Trump



Whether or not you hate the NFL’s recent trend of kneeling during the anthem, you cannot ignore the meaning behind the protest and how it could get misconstrued.

Colin Kaepernick’s #TakeTheKnee protest is taking off again because of President Donald Trump’s opposition to it. 

Many have started supporting Kaepernick's cause not because of the initial reason he knelt, but because it is another way to oppose Trump.

At a rally in Alabama, Trump talked about the NFL and how fans should leave the stadium if players begin to kneel during the national anthem. He went on to call those who protest “sons of bitches.” 

Naturally, the protests increased. 

This is not the first time black athletes have used their platform to protest and bring attention to their oppression.

At the 1968 Olympics, athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos won the gold and bronze medals in the 200-meter sprint. On the podium, both men raised a black-gloved fist during the American national anthem. This demonstration has since been criticized as a “black power” move, while both men defended themselves and referred to it as a “human rights salute.” 

"If I win, I am an American, not a black American." Smith said after the event. "But, if I did something bad, then they would say a negro. We are black, and we are proud of being black. Black America will understand what we did tonight."

The International Olympic Committee's response was shocking. 

The IOC president at the time, Avery Brundage, did not see this protest as acceptable at the Olympics, but he made no complaint about a Nazi salute during the 1936 Olympics. Brundage claimed the Nazi salute qualified as the national gesture and therefore was acceptable. 

Smith and Carlos were ultimately banned from the games per Brundage’s request

Does that sound familiar? 

When we connect Kaepernick’s protest solely to Trump, we miss the larger point of the protest. It began as a stance against police brutality and anti-black rhetoric in the nation. 

In today’s context, athletes are still using that platform as the means of their protest, but that is dodging the attention of those who are just now supporting it. 

Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem and the American flag did not begin during Trump’s administration. It began under Obama’s, just like the increased illumination of police brutality and the new wave of racism. 

We should not allow Trump to connect himself to the protest when it is not completely about him.

David Graham from The Atlantic expressed his fear that Trump will “provoke a dynamic in which many of the country’s most famous and most visible African Americans appear en masse to disrespect the anthem and the flag.” 

President Trump and his cabinet are specifically targeting those who speak against him while simultaneously being black. 

Look at ESPN anchor Jemele Hill’s comment and their reaction

Look at the retraction of Steph Curry’s invitation to the White House. 

Yet, Miss Texas can criticize Trump’s actions and reactions in the past few months, and she gets minimal backlash.

We should support Kaepernick, other black athletes and black celebrities who speak out about their mistreatment in our country. We should not connect it to President Trump and let him take it for his own agenda.

mmgarbac@indiana.edu 

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