Stand for Something by Taking A Knee

Editor's Note:

Sajid Khan responds to Donald Trump's comments about players kneeling and about the NFL's response, reminding us that taking a knee is not about Trump.

This NFL Sunday,  NFL players, coaches and organizations have responded to President Donald Trump’s comments on Friday night, referring to Colin Kaepernick and other players who have knelt during the national anthem: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

Here are my thoughts:

- Let’s not forget why Colin Kaepernick sat down, and then knelt, in the first place.  Here’s what he said last August, well before the Trump’s election, when his movement started:  “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”  When asked if he would continue to sit, he responded, “I’ll continue to sit. I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”

Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest police brutality of racial minorities, to push back against mass incarceration, to counter the systemic oppression of people of color, epidemics that have plagued America since its inception, that festered during the Obama presidency, that predate the election of Donald Trump, that continue to this day.   

Taking a knee wasn’t and isn’t about Donald Trump; it’s about confronting America’s perpetual oppression and degradation of our black and brown people.

- Much love to Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell for being the first Major League Baseball player to take a knee. He sensed a call for action and now stands as a pioneer among his peers like Colin Kaepernick, putting his career at risk for the greater good. I already liked Maxwell as a player; now he’s my favorite.

I’m a lifelong A’s fan and love them even more today after the organization’s statement in support of Maxwell: “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive. We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.” Let’s Go Oakland!!!

- From Colin Kaepernick to Steve Kerr to Stephen Curry to Kevin Durant to Bruce Maxwell, the Bay Area is the social conscience of America.  

- When Trump had the audacity to call players like Kaepernick, Marshawn Lynch and Michael Bennett, who have exercised their constitutional rights to engage in peaceful protest by kneeling, sons of bitches, I hoped that every NFL player would take a knee today to denounce and disavow Trump’s belittling and disrespectful rhetoric, to show solidarity with their comrades. Trump’s words made it pretty clear and pretty easy for NFL players: regardless of what you feel about Kaepernick and company’s stated purposes, take a knee to show them love and support, to bind together against the bully that is Donald Trump.    

That said, it’s been heartening to see players across the league from almost every team kneeling to affirm their colleagues. To those players who kneeled, from Terrell Suggs to Adrian Peterson to Desean Jackson to Travis Kelce and everyone and anyone else,  you have my utmost respect and a lifelong fan in me.  

-  To those players who did not kneel and instead stood together with linked arms, you exhibited cowardice, failed to be one with your teammates and did little to resist and denounce Trump. The moment called for you to rise to the occasion, to take a knee, to be on the right side of history; instead, you copped out.   

- To Mike Tomlin, who chose to keep his Pittsburgh Steelers off the field  for the anthem,  shame on you. Here’s part of how Tomlin explained his decision, “We’re not gonna play politics with football players, with football coaches.” By not encouraging his team to express themselves during the anthem as they each would choose, Tomlin perpetuated the “stick to sports” mantra that belittles and boxes in athletes and makes them voiceless bodies for our entertainment. He kept politics and football separate on a day when we needed them to merge for our collective growth.

- To the Seattle Seahawks players who, like the Steelers, chose not to take the field for the anthem, I applaud you. The difference between them and the Steelers? This statement from the Seahawks players: “We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country. Out of love for our country and in honor of the sacrifices made on our behalf, we unite to oppose those that would deny our most basic freedoms.” That, unlike Tomlin and the Steelers’ non-statement, is resounding and powerful.

- To the NFL owners who have come out with varied statements condemning Trump and supporting their players’ rights of free speech and expression, thank you. But… you really want to denounce Trump and honor your players’ activism? Hire Colin Kaepernick. Until then, your words ring hollow. Until then, I will continue to boycott.

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