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NFL anthem protest timeline

Colin Kaepernick hasn’t played a football game in two years, but he maybe the most well-known football player. His protest of kneeling during the American national anthem at the beginning of games to protest oppression of Black people and people of colour.  

In an interview with he said, “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people are getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”  

He’s started a movement across football and the sports landscape. It’s divided the United States, drawn the ire of President Trump, banished Kaepernick out of the league and made him the face of Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ campaign.  

With so much going on, here’s a timeline to organize the events.  


Aug. 14 and 20, 2016The protest begins. 

Kaepernick didn’t play in two preseason games for the San Francisco 49ers but was sitting down during the anthem. It didn’t get a lot of attention because he wasn’t playing.  


Aug. 26, 2016 Kaepernick gets noticed.  

Kaepernick is spotted sitting during the anthem and the story went viral. The team confirmed Kaepernick sat during the anthem.  


Aug. 28, 2016 Kaepernick speaks to media.  

Kaepernick says he believes the flag represents a country that isn’t supporting its citizens the way it’s supposed to, especially the Black community. He says this isn’t against the military – they fight for liberty and justice for everyone and many veterans are disrespected when they come back home.  


Sept. 1, 2016 – Kaepernick is joined by teammate Eric Reed.  

This was the first time more than just Kaepernick sat down during the anthem. Jeremy Lane of the Seattle Seahawks also sat down in a separate game to support Kaepernick’s protest. 


Sept. 11, 2016 – The protest on 9/11.  

On the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, four Miami Dolphin players took a knee. Players for three other teams linked arms instead of kneeling.  


Oct. 2016 – The movement spreads. 

By this time high school football teams, cheerleaders, anthem signers and university football bands all kneel. NBA players link arms, and team USA men’s hockey team Head Coach, John Tortorella says he will bench anyone who kneels during the anthem at the World Cup. No one did. Seahawks wide receiver says he received death threats for his involvement in the movement.  


March 1, 2017 – Kaepernick parts ways with San Francisco.  

Kaepernick opts out of his final year as 49ers contact, making him a free agent.  


Sept. 6, 2017 – An NFL player’s experience with police brutality.  

Seahawks player Michael Bennett speaks out about his “traumatic experience” with police in Las Vegas. He said police threatened to blow his head off because he was Black. Kaepernick supports Bennett and calls the encounter “disgusting.”  


Sept. 7, 2017 – No Kaepernick.  

The NFL season starts with Kaepernick unsigned; the Seahawks had interest in him but decided not to sign him.  


Sept. 22, 2017 – Trump.  

President Trump said in a rally in Alabama that players who kneel during the anthem should be fired and fans should walk out in protest. A day later the NFL’s commissioner, Roger Goodell called the comments “divisive.”  


Sept. 24, 2017 – Protests ignited.  

More than 130 players sat, kneeled or raised their fist in protest after Trump’s comments. Trump says his comments have nothing to do with race and it is about respecting the flag.  


Oct. 8, 2017 – Pence leaves game.  

United States Vice-President Mike Pence goes to watch the Indianapolis Colts versus 49ers game but leaves after players sit during the anthem. The whole trip cost taxpayers $240,000.  


Oct. 10, 2017 – Commissioner responds.  

The NFL commissioner sends a letter asking players to stand for the anthem.  


Oct. 16, 2017 – Kaepernick vs. the NFL.  

Kaepernick takes legal action against NFL owners for depriving him of employment because of his protest.  


May 23, 2018 – New anthem policy.  

The NFL sets a new anthem policy allowing players who want to stand on the field and those that don’t can remain in the locker rooms until it is over.  


July 20, 2018 – Changes to the policy.  

The NFL and the players union agree to halt the enforcement of rules in the new anthem policy after an article says a Miami Dolphins player who protests can be suspended up to four games. Trump had other ideas and tweeted the following day that players should be suspended.  


Aug. 30, 2018 – Going toward court. 

Kaepernick wins a preliminary hearing. The NFL argued that the case should be dismissed because there is no evidence. After a year the arbitrator has determined there is enough evidence to go to a full hearing.  


Sept. 5, 2018 – Nike 

Colin Kaepernick becomes the face of Nike’s 30th anniversary ‘Just Do It’ ad campaign. Many people burn Nike clothes in protest. An ad is aired during the NFL’s opening game.  


















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