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There has been widespread controversy in sporting demonstrations in the US where even the President has expressed his view on the matter. Wide-spread demonstrations by athletes began two years ago with Collin Kaepernick the quarterback, who had a good five-year career in the 49ers of San Francisco. Kaepernick expressed his right of speech by protesting in the national anthem. Since then, several of the players have joined the marches by raising their arms high and locking hands during the national anthem. Their protest is to raise awareness about racial inequality, police brutality, and institutional racism that is rampant around the US. Sports protests have been going on for years, and they can be traced Sports protests have been there for centuries and can be traced back to the last Roman Republic. The ancient protests were used to express discontent against the imperial rule and tax policies among other societal problems that faced ordinary citizens. In the 20th century, political protests in sports engulfed sporting fraternity starting in the 1906 Olympics. In the early 60s and 70s, civil-rights movements fuelled racial sports protests to fight the challenges the black community faced such as racism, segregation and lack of proper education. Mohammed Ali a prominent and successful boxer joined sports activism when he refused to join the American efforts in the Vietnam War. Therefore, athletes have been using their arena of excellence to speak out for the marginalized groups. However, critics led by President Trump argue that sports protest is an abuse to the US Flag and country and as such, the President advocated for the firing or suspension of N.F.L players. Nevertheless, the sports culture in America is very dominant and the society should learn from past mistakes to make America great but not suppress the freedom of expression as is the case currently.
Protesting in Sports
Introduction
In the period after the deadliest terrorist attacks of 9/11 in the US, the national anthem took the role of a uniting factor at sporting events. Recently, there has been controversy over athletes not standing up for same anthem that once symbolized the unity of our country. Athletes’ protesting during the playing of the Star – Spangled Banner has been one of the hottest topics in sports since Colin Kaepernick reignited the movement almost two years ago (Jhaveri). What ensued was a blazing wildfire of hot takes and general insanity, with many NFL players following Kaepernick’s lead. We most often hear “stick to sports” which tries to diminish courage and undermine the deeply held dissent tradition that distinguishes liberal democracies from authoritarian states. Athletes have used the megaphone that different sports provide to protest for a long time, generating angry feedback from most white fans, sports officials, and politicians.
For centuries, sports have played a significant role in the society. There are many lessons that a nation can learn from the history of sport protests and applied to hatred and division that currently engulf the US. Sports have been a canvas in which participants prove the fundamental importance of minority groups, challenge convention and prod a nation to live to the principles laid out by the forefathers. The sports culture is very dominant in the American lifestyle (Early). Majority of Americans consume their time and finances on sports events like on major-leagues or buying jerseys to represent and celebrate their favorite teams. Athletic competition remains a direct line for speaking to politicians through the proxy of the athlete. Fame provides these individuals a voice that can speak to the discontent of millions. No one should be barred from utilizing the freedom of expression.
History of Sports Protests
The current controversy in modern day protests in sports dates back to the reign of the Roman Empire. The Roman Republic of the first century BCE experienced athletes and thespians express their political ends during forums. According to Bond, Marcus Cicero in 56 BCE highlighted that there were three places where people would communicate with their political counterparts (Bond). The greatest degree of inclination for the Romans was at assemblies, speeches, and games and gladiator exhibitions. Cicero further commented that Diphilus went off-script during a theatre performance and critiqued Pompey, a Roman ruler in 59 BCE. Diphilus created a pun that stated that Pompey was great because of the miseries faced by the Roman citizens (Bond). The illustration indicates that playwrights and actors use the theatre as their social arena to convey their messages or grievances to politicians. Sportsmen were also not left behind. The sports arenas brought both the wealthy and less fortunate in the society together in one place unlike theatrical events and operas in the modern day. Sports and games are uniting language that has no cultural barriers across the globe. Sporting events were carried out in the Colosseum, and the hippodrome as well as a circus during the Roman period (Bond).
The hippodrome had become a significant venue for chariot racing in the fifth century CE and had become the heart of the Roman city. Charioteer teams became very potent during this period and they were identified using colors; the Blues, Greens, Reds, and Whites. However, the teams were affiliated with economic and political identities. City neighborhoods were also caught up in the trend (Bond). For instance, Constantinople, a major Roman city had divided allegiance and residents either belonged to the Greens or Blues during the sixth century. During the reign of Justinian (r.527-565), the circus and hippodromes had become major venues for expressing dissatisfaction with the ruling class. Victorious charioteers rose to become powerful social instruments who commanded a large number of the masses. They expressed their discontent over the heavy tax policies Justinian the emperor had implemented in the city. In 532, riots erupted in the city and the emperor ordered the arrest of ringleaders where two fans of the Greens and Blues escaped an execution attempt but kept under a church arrest. During the chariot games in the same year, two chariot leaders from the leading team factions (Blues and Greens) asked the emperor to show leniency but he turned a deaf year. The Blues and Greens supporters chanted songs for their teams and widespread riots erupted in the Justinian kingdom (Bond).
Similarly, the twentieth century experienced its share of sports protests. In 1906, Peter O’Connor refused to raise the Union Jack that he won in the year’s Summer Games. He further ran away from the podium during the medal ceremony and waved an Irish standard at the flag pole and Irish and American athletes fended away officials that rushed to pull him down (Chow). The 1906 games are remembered for their political protests. Similarly, in the 1968 Olympic Games hosted by Mexico, Vera Caslavska, a Czech gymnast refused to honor the Soviet Union’s Anthem. American Tommie Smith held his fist high in the air after winning a gold medal together with his companion John Carlos (Chow). Muhammad Ali also participated in sports activism by refusing to participate in the Vietnam War. The 60s and 70s experienced massive black consciousness after Ali. Other high-profile athletes such as Jim Brown, and Bill Russell joined sports activism that was fuelled by the civil-rights movement (Chow). In 2004, Carlos Delgado a baseball superstar from the Toronto Blue Jays refused to stand for the God Bless America in protest of the American foreign wars. He experienced massive booing from fans and later lost his position in the team.
Analysis of Kaepernick’s Protest
The 32 franchise owners of N.F.L hold a conservative fraternity of leaders and none of them are from the African-American community. Recent survey indicates that seven N.F.L owners donated more a million dollars to fund Trump’s campaign. Apart from that, the African-American community has experienced police brutality in the hands of the police. In the last one year, there have been various peaceful protests in the wake of racially instigated police brutality. As a result, Collin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback started the series of protests during the opening of N.F.L games especially kneeling during the national Anthem. Kaepernick’s wave of protests is more than the national anthem (Belson). He sends a message for equal treatment of people in the US regardless of their racial, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic protests. Police profiling has been on the rise in the US. The profiling is racially instigated with majority of blacks dying in the hands of the police. Videos of white policemen shooting black males have gone viral online in pursuit of a fair criminal justice system. However, the law enforcement has not complied because no officer has been jailed for the murder of innocent life.
The voice of the minority in the US has been forsaken. The minorities especially blacks and Hispanics make up 56% of incarcerated individuals in the United States. The laws of the land foster racialism. Even in the wake of sports protests, President Trump was quoted advocating for the firing of N.F.L players for their freedom of expression (Early). Kaepernick and the likes agree that they do not disrespect the US Flag but they disagree with racial discrimination, police brutality, and social privileges that deny the minority a voice. The authority and the President have sidelined other racial movements such as neo-Nazis but instead they have been condemning peaceful protesters. Fans, coaches and N.F.L owners have been supporting the players during the protests. In 2012, NBA players such as Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, among others donned their hoodies after the controversial death of Trayvon Martin (Chow). Since Kaepernick’s initiation of athlete protests, over two hundred and twenty African-Americans have died in controversial situations. As such, racial protests in sports have been there for long in the US.
Critics of the sports protest argue that kneeling during national anthem disrespects the nation according to Miller. Others such as Giovinazzo argued that athletes should such for other means of raising awareness against systemic oppression. She reference Kaepernick’s donation of $900,000 to organizations that stand against oppression in the US. Giovinazzo however acknowledged the existence of racial inequality and freedom of expression but she indicated that athletes should do more to create awareness in the field (Miller).
Conclusion
Sports and games are a universal language that has been there for centuries. Sporting events recognize no boundary, race, ethnicity, religion, or social status. Games and sports are there for cohesiveness and for the promotion of sportsmanship. However, athletes have been using the field to show their discontent with social ills and government policies since. The field has been a great venue to send their grievances on behalf of the minority population. In ancient Roman Republic, expressed their feelings on taxation policies and social injustices the Roman emperors promoted. Similarly, the 20th and 21st century has experienced sports protests with the recent controversy starting from Collin Kaepernick. The wave of protests is more than the game and the national anthem. It is about the freedom of expression and peaceful protests. On the contrary, athletes have been negatively judged because of their stance on systematic racism, police brutality and police profiling. High authorities such as President Trump among other critics have been on the frontline in crucifying athletes because of their beliefs on social issues. Instead, they have turned deaf ear and remained mum on social injustices such as the killing of blacks by white police and the growth of neo-Nazi and white supremacy groups in the US. Unfortunately, athletes have suffered from expressing their freedom of expression. Kaepernick is out of league because the 32 N.F.L teams aren’t ready to accommodate him in spite of his track records. Everyone has the right to free expression and peaceful protests. Racialism and systemic oppression should not have a place in the 21st century going forward.
Annotated Bibliography
Belson, Ken. “Colin Kaepernick, Who Began Anthem Kneeling, Files Complaint Against
N.F.L.” The New York Times, the New York Times, 15 Oct. 2017,
In this article, Ken Belson mainly spoke about former NFL player, Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, whose five-year career with the San Francisco “49ers” was abruptly ended because of his sideline protesting. He leads the wave of kneeling during the national anthem that many other players followed. Although a lot of people, players, and spectators, stood behind Kaepernick, he was picked apart for starting it. This information is known by everyone and can be used as reliable evidence in my argument of protesting being beneficial in what society believes in. It is beneficial information and helps shape my debate, agreeing with my opinion.
Bond, Sarah. “The Sports Arena Has Always Been A Venue For Protest.” Forbes, Forbes
Magazine, 25 Sept. 2017,
Aside from the current controversy with protesting in sports in the modern day, it is safe to say that this type of controversy has been going since the Roman Empire days no matter what the political issue was, according to the article. The whole purpose of this article to inform the readers that protesting a “sports setting” has always been frequent for the most part. However, in the modern day, it got much more severe. Considering I have insight into sports, it would be easy for me to inform any readers about the connection with protesting to specific political issues, in particular, racism. I found this source to be helpful because it has mentioned some of the most recent incidents of our era. This article, I would say, is far more recent when compared to others, with the use of images and references. Using this resource would help me reflect much comfortably as I can relate to it much smoothly at a good pace.
Chow, Kat. “A Brief History of Racial Protest in Sports.” NPR, NPR, 2 Dec. 2014,
This article sheds some light on the history of social protests in sports. Unlike the other articles, it presents many more incidents as time has passed into present day. It touches on moments that protest racial inequality and fight the prejudice out there. Kat Chow mentioned moments from Tommie Smith and John Carlos who raised their fists against blacks’ discrimination in the US. in 2012, as well, the controversial death of Trayvon Martin lead to notable NBA players to protest led by Dwayne Wade and LeBron James. But to date back in time, Muhammad Ali’s branding of activism cannot be forgotten. Following his conversion to Islam in the 1960s, he declined being drafted in the Vietnam War. This source would be useful when needing to provide evidence from past incidents and examples. However, I also wanted to find an article that predated the kneeling situation in the NFL to show that there has in fact been prior protests fighting injustice. This would then make my argument possibly stronger.
Early, Gerard. “Colin Kaepernick, Kneeling, And the Meaning of Gratitude | Common
Reader.” Common Reader. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Dec. 2017.
In this article, Early brings a very distinct argument as opposed to the other sources. He argues that the black community in NFL show of coordinated protest replicates the Bebob revolution that was pivotal in changing the public perception of black males that practiced jazz music. Early continues to illustrate that now is the time for African-Americans to create awareness to the owners, press, and the audience about white privilege. The author concludes that kneeling during national anthem is a creative despair that signifies a tough-minded hope among black athletes.
Jhaveri, Hemal. “In their own words: NFL players explain why they protested.” USA Today,
Gannett Satellite Information Network, 25 Sept. 2017,
In this annotation of the above source by Hemal Jhaveri, a different perspective of the commonly shamed protests is put into play. This article offered the input of NFL players and the various reasons behind their choice of kneeling during the national anthem. This source is handy when talking about the topic of protesting among sports. Many think that these actions are carried out for no reason, but this proves the stand each player is making and the reasons behind it. Yes, this source is beneficial and agrees with the stance of my argument. In my opinion, people should never be scared of standing up for what they believe is right, and that is precisely what these NFL players did.
Miller, Hayley. “Fox News Guest’s Argument Against NFL Protests Is Peak Willful Ignorance.”
The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 27 Sept. 2017,
I wanted to find an article that shows both sides of the whole kneeling situation, and I felt this was the best fit. This article did its purpose in the fact that Fox and guests were completely against the NFL players kneeling. Lisa Giovinazzo offered her opinion by stating that all Americans should at least stand during the national anthem. She could not understand why some people could support player protests. As an organization, they were curious as to why the NFL players were taking this stance in kneeling. Being able to have both sides of the argument is always a plus, as it distinguishes the reasoning behind different perspectives. This source would be useful as it splits the argument in two adding more “flavor” to the paper. It’s only different from other articles because of that one reason, with the reason being having two sides to the story.

Works Cited
Belson, Ken. “Colin Kaepernick, Who Began Anthem Kneeling, Files Complaint Against
N.F.L.” The New York Times, the New York Times, 15 Oct. 2017,
Bond, Sarah. “The Sports Arena Has Always Been A Venue For Protest.” Forbes, Forbes
Magazine, 25 Sept. 2017,
Chow, Kat. “A Brief History of Racial Protest in Sports.” NPR, NPR, 2 Dec. 2014,
Early, Gerard. “Colin Kaepernick, Kneeling, And the Meaning of Gratitude | Common
Reader.” Common Reader. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Dec. 2017.
Jhaveri, Hemal. “In their own words: NFL players explain why they protested.” USA Today,
Gannett Satellite Information Network, 25 Sept. 2017,
Miller, Hayley. “Fox News Guest’s Argument Against NFL Protests Is Peak Willful Ignorance.”
The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 27 Sept. 2017,

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