NFL player Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the National Anthem in 2016, as a protest against police violence. At the time, he told NFL media that it was his peaceful way of expressing his beliefs.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick 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 getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Since that protest began, Donald Trump has been elected president, and white supremacists have been emboldened by his leadership, leading to escalating violence like what was seen in Charlottesville this summer.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, President Trump started tweeting about NFL players who were following Kaepernick's lead and kneeling during the anthem. He suggested players be fired for expressing their First Amendment rights on the field. The NFL is a private business and many team owners took issue with the president's interference, and began to join their players in solidarity on the field.
Taking a knee has grown as a form of protest, and now even celebrities are showing their support of NFL players who choose to protest in this way. Even Shonda Rhimes, TV queen and creator of Grey's Anatomy, took a knee with the cast at their 300 episode anniversary celebration:
Joining her were other celebrities from the show, like Jesse Williams and Ellen Pompeo:
You'll notice that their captions for the images of everyone kneeling are a little different, Pompeo's in particular. In fact, she makes no reference to racial justice whatsoever, and seems to be celebrating the anthem rather than peaceful protest.
Jesse Williams is also a bit vague, but he has spoken out openly many times about racism and police violence in the past. It's possible everyone in the group saw what they were doing differently. That's one thing about a growing movement—you can't always control how people interpret your message, especially when the president gets involved. It's good to look back on what Kaepernick's original intention was: to draw attention to racial inequality in America. Take a knee!
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