NFL season kicks off with more players protesting and taking a knee during the national anthem

NFL season kicks off with more players protesting and taking a knee during the national anthem

For the past two years or so, several NFL players have found themselves at the centre of a political debate after making the decision to kneel during the national anthem as a protest against racism in the USA. The most notable of these players is Colin Kaepernick, who began demonstrating in such a way back in 2016.

Originally, Kaepernick sat on the bench during the anthem but, in September 2016, after a former NFL player and U.S. military veteran, Nate Boyer, he began kneeling on the field as a sign of respect for those who have fought for the country. Since then, others have followed suit - almost always to a negative response.

Most recently, Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson of the Miami Dolphins took a knee during the anthem before their game against the Tennessee Titans this weekend. Robert Quinn also protested by raising a fist while everyone sang.

Kaepernick shared his support for the players, saying: "My Brothers @kstills and @ithinkisee12 continue to show their unwavering strength by fighting for the oppressed! They have not backed down, even when attacked and intimidated. Their courage will move the world forward!"

He then shared the quote: "Love is at the root of our resistance!"

The protests are against all forms of racism, of course, but take a primary interest in the continued racial prejudice shown by law enforcement officers towards black Americans. Just today, in fact, a white police officer has been charged with manslaughter after shooting her unarmed black neighbour in his own home. She claimed that she thought it was her own house, and that he had broken in.

Unfortunately, far too many similar stories have made the press in recent years, meaning that the incident is not a one-off, but rather part of a much larger, more sinister pattern.

Despite their good intentions, however, the players kneeling in protest have received a lot of hate and negative criticism for their actions.

Last week, when Kaepernick became the face of the new Nike campaign, thousands of people took to social media to announce that they would be boycotting the sportswear brand, with some even going so far as to burn and destroy products that they had already bought from the company.

Even President Donald Trump has weighed in on the matter more than once.

Back in 2017, he said at a rally: "Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b***h off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!'" And then, after the new Nike campaign was released, he said: "I think it’s a terrible message," before adding, "Nike is a tenant of mine. They pay a lot of rent."

None of that could get in the way of Stills, Wilson, and Quinn, though, and it's unlikely that it'll prevent any further protests. In fact, the more publicity that demonstrations like this get, the more they are likely to occur.

These three players, along with Kaepernick, will no doubt be remembered as cultural icons who campaigned for change when nobody was willing to listen. All those who burned up their Nike gear, on the other hand, will probably go down in history for very different reasons.