San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick lit the sports world on fire Friday night without throwing a single pass or uttering a single word. He simply sat down quietly during the national anthem as it was played prior to the 49ers’ preseason game.
When asked later why he was not standing during the anthem, Kaepernick said he is “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.”
While most continue to debate the manner in which Kaepernick chose to protest the social injustices, it seems clear that, right or wrong, the decision to sit during the anthem was clearly effective. We can see proof of this in Kaepernick’s Instagram account.
Up until October of last year, Kaepernick’s Instagram account looked like a standard garden-variety IG of most famous athletes. It included images of him working out, spending time with his family, dressed up for social events, and leaning on fancy cars.
But then something changed.
Starting in October, Kaepernick started posting about social injustice, starting with this post about the anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther party. The image notes that the Black Panthers “practiced self defence of the black community against police brutality.”
That tone continued over the next ten months with the majority of his posts dedicated to ominous quotes from leaders of the black community:
… comments on the death of Sandra Bland:
… and comments on the death of Freddie Grey:
But what is telling here is that, outside of those who follow Kaepernick on social media, hardly anybody noticed. It wasn’t until Kaepernick sat during the national anthem on Friday that people outside of his fan base started to listen.
Even then, nobody noticed that Kaepernick was protesting the national anthem until he did it in uniform. Kaepernick also sat quietly during the national anthems prior to the 49ers’ first two preseason games, but he did not play in those games, so he was in street clothes and nobody noticed.
The only post before this past weekend that garnered even a modicum of attention among the larger collective was a post on Donald Trump.
On Saturday, Mark Cuban defended Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the anthem, noting that the quarterback “didn’t: throw a bomb, fire a shot, start a riot, throw a punch, shut a business, yell at someone, troll anyone. He just sat there quietly.”
Many people have argued that there are other ways to get your message across. It seems Kaepernick tried another way and it wasn’t nearly as effective as just sitting down.
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