Colin Kaepernick, a San Francisco 49ers quarterback, has recently come under fire for refusing to stand during the national anthem. He has refused to do so in each of the four preseason games that the team has played, instead electing to sit on the bench or, most recently, kneel on the sideline. Kaepernick has said that he is “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” In sitting during the playing of the anthem, the quarterback is making an attempt to call more national attention to racial inequality and police brutality.
However, his actions have been widely criticized as being anti-American and are seen by many as disrespectful to U.S. veterans and law enforcement officers. Kaepernick feels that these claims are distortions of his original intent, and vehemently denies being anti-military or anti-American. And while millions of Americans disagree with what Kaepernick is doing, millions of others support him in his efforts. The 49ers have sold more Kaepernick gear in the past week than they had sold in the eight months leading up to his protest, and his jersey has rocketed from the 120th spot in league jersey sales to the number one spot in a matter of days.
Kaepernick has since pledged to donate one million dollars of the money he makes from his jersey sales to groups which are affected by the issues he’s highlighted. There was speculation about whether or not he would lose endorsements as a result of his protest, but none have been pulled from him yet. Others who have supported him, however, have not been as lucky. Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos knelt before his team’s game against the Carolina Panthers and has since lost two partnerships, from CenturyLink and the Air Academy Federal Credit Union. Megan Rapinoe of the U.S. women’s national soccer team knelt before an anthem in solidarity with Kaepernick. Before her next game, officials decided to prevent her from doing so again, playing the anthem before the players stepped on the field. At least 19 other professional athletes have been reported to have participated in similar protests. The NFL commissioner has stated that, while he and many others in the NFL disagree with the medium of protest, the league cannot and will not take action against those that do so.