When Colin Kaepernick first began quietly sitting on the sidelines during the national anthem, and later, quite visibly, taking a knee in protest, he made clear what his reason was.
As he explained:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Now, the national anthem protest, in which dozens of players have taken part, has taken on a life of its own — growing in scope way beyond Kaepernick’s original, albeit amorphous, reason.
The issues have become so far-flung and murky that they now read like a political party platform in their aspirational tone and scope.
And now, people are getting confused.
Here are the many reasons why NFL players and their mouthpieces have given for kneeling:
1. Housing Discrimination
Players want access to members of Congress and Congressional Committees to push through reforms and they want the NFL to help them. pic.twitter.com/41M2UBshSu
— Donté Stallworth (@DonteStallworth) October 18, 2017
Former wide receiver Donté Stallworth told CNN recently that players have told him housing discrimination is a big issue that needs to be confronted by the NFL.
2. No ‘Equal Opportunity’
— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) August 22, 2017
Despite working in an industry in which more than 70 percent of the players are of a minority race and living in a country in which there’s an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Cleveland Browns tight end Seth DeValve said he supported the kneelers because “the issue is that [the country] doesn’t provide equal opportunity to everybody. I wanted to support my African-American teammates today who wanted to take a knee.”
3. Ending the ‘Cycle of Poverty’
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 25, 2017
Ending the cycle of poverty is a very big issue and has been a topic of discourse in every political conversation since President Lyndon Johnson started a “war on poverty” in the 1960s. Over to you, NFL.
4. Ending the ‘Money Bail’ System
— Jon Schuppe (@jonschuppe) August 22, 2017
This add-on issue by Malcolm Jenkins and Anquan Boldin is one that has been kicking around for the past couple of years. Some law enforcement officials and others believe that requiring poor criminal suspects to come up with 10 percent bail unfairly punishes the poor.
5. Sealing Misdemeanor Nonviolent Court Records
The belief is that a person who has been in trouble with the law has a tougher time getting work and is given poor treatment in future encounters with law enforcement. As Jenkins and Boldin said, “Clean Slate legislation in the state of Pennsylvania seals nonviolent misdemeanor records after 10 years.” These players want the NFL to address this issue as well.
6. Police Accountability
Each police department has its own training, rules and regulations and, like everyone else living here, must adhere to existing laws and statues. That said, Jenkins and Boldin seemed to call for a macro approach to what is usually done by the citizenry in each city, town or burg. They said it would “rebuild trust.”
7. Racism in Law Enforcement
Kaepernick and other players accepted as fact that police have intentionally, and with malice aforethought, sought out black men to murder, accepting the fiction, for example, that Michael Brown was murdered while raising his hands and begging a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer to “don’t shoot.”
The Obama Administration’s phalanx of lawyers and investigators, as well as two other investigations, proved that story to be a lie. In another well-known example, an officer in South Carolina was fired and charged in the shooting of a black motorist as he ran away. An officer who shot Philando Castile, a concealed-carry handgun owner, was fired but did not face criminal charges in his death.
What’s less understood is that officers are given wide latitude to use force when they feel their lives are threatened.
8. Gender Pay Disparity
The NFL players now claim their protests are about gender pay inequality.
Fine. Let’s pay them the same wage the cheerleaders are paid.
— On A Ledge Somewhere (@LedgeSomewhere) October 19, 2017
Stallworth declared this to be one of the issues that players told him needed to be addressed by the NFL.
9. The 'Muslim Ban’
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) October 17, 2017
A website called Rolling Out claims the so-called “Muslim ban” — the temporary halt to Syrian refugees — constitutes one of the five main reasons why NFL players are kneeling.
It also claims they are kneeling because of the next item on the list.
10. 'LGBTQIQA Are Being Killed'
The website says "Last year, at least 22 transgender people were killed in the United States, which was the most recorded by the Human Rights Campaign. This year, 21 have been killed so far, according to Advocate mag.”
It’s unclear why this would be under the NFL’s purview, but just roll with it.
11. ‘Direct Resistance’ to Donald Trump
For what was probably the first time in their lives, NFL players took literally the epithet “son of a b***h” and took faux-fense at what they alleged President Donald Trump called their mothers in a speech. Trump, in his unfiltered fashion, asked a hall full of supporters:
“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,'” Mr Trump said. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He's going to say, 'That guy that disrespects our flag, he's fired.' And that owner, they don't know it [but] they'll be the most popular person in this country.”
After Trump said that, the protest took on naked partisanship with players arraying on one side with Trump on the other.
12. Kaepernick Must Be Signed to a Team
Though the injured and underutilized quarterback was riding the bench when he decided to opt out of his 49ers contract and try free agency, he has filed a complaint alleging NFL collusion for failing to land a job this season.
Some players say they’ll keep up the kneeling until Kaepernick is signed to a new team.
And now, we’ve come full circle.