For the first NFL Sunday of the 2018-2019 season, two Miami Dolphins players took a knee, prompting praise from Colin Kaepernick

By Maura Hohman
September 10, 2018 12:49 PM
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Miami Dolphins players kneel during the national anthem before a game against the Tennessee Titans
Wilfredo Lee/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Two Miami Dolphins players took a knee on Sunday, continuing the protest started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in August 2016.

Wide receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson kneeled when the national anthem played at the start of their game against the Tennessee Titans, becoming the first players to do so on the field during the 2018 to 2019 season.

Kaepernick, 30, who recently became the face of Nike’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign for his efforts to take a stand against police brutality and racial inequality in the U.S., praised the Dolphins on Twitter, writing, “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 added, ” ‘Love is at the root of our resistance!’ ” with the clenched fist emoji.

President Donald Trump, one of the most vocal critics of Kaepernick’s stance, also addressed Sunday’s game, suggesting in a tweet that far fewer people are watching the NFL because of kneeling players. “If the players stood proudly for our Flag and Anthem, and it is all shown on broadcast, maybe ratings could come back? Otherwise worse!” he wrote.

Last week, Kaepernick was revealed as a new face of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign: a black and white closeup of his face with the superimposed words, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” Two days later, a full commercial with Kaepernick was released.

Many — including fellow athletes like tennis champion Serena Williams and NBA star LeBron James, who are both part of the campaign — have praised Nike, while others have responded with fury, threatening to boycott the sportswear titan.

Kaepernick started the international protest in August 2016, when the then-28-year-old football star remained seated during the national anthem at the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. A few weeks later he opted to take a knee instead to clarify that he wasn’t protesting the U.S. military.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told Steve Wyche of NFL Media about the move afterwards.

Colin Kaepernick

“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” he continued. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder… I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. If they take football away, my endorsements from me — I know that I stood up for what is right.”

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As support swelled, so did backlash against Kaepernick. In March 2017, he opted out of his contract with the 49ers, and the quarterback hasn’t been hired by another team since despite a strong 2017 season, according to Sports Illustrated. In an ongoing lawsuit, Kaepernick is suing the NFL for colluding to keep him unsigned because of his politics. An arbitrator recently threw out the NFL’s request to dismiss the case.

Colin Kaepernick

In May 2018, NFL owners approved rules that force players to stand on the sideline or remain in the locker room during the anthem and fine those who do not comply. But according to the Washington Post, the policy is on hold because of disagreements between the league and the NFL Players Association, and ESPN reported on Sunday that nothing will be enacted this season.