On Aug. 26, 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat out the national anthem before a preseason game with the Green Bay Packers. A prolonged debate about race, privilege and freedom of expression ensued.
The following is a timeline of some of the events that resulted in President Donald Trump's latest tweet-storm, directed at the players who followed Kaepernick's example.
- Aug. 14 and 20
Colin Kaepernick sits during anthem. No one notices.
- Aug. 26
Jennifer Lee Chan of Niners Nation tweets a photo of the anthem, unrelated to his seated protest. Someone notices Kaepernick apparently seated, and the story blows up that night.
A flurry of statements follows: from the 49ers, confirming he sat during anthem; from Kapaernick, explaining why he sat; and from the NFL, clarifying its position on players’ conduct during the anthem, which is, “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.”
- Aug. 28
Kaepernick meets with the media, explaining his motives. This does not cool down the rhetoric. Much vitriol ensued, with specific allegations that Kaepernick’s protest was disrespectful to veterans.
- Aug. 29
Trump suggests Kaepenick ‘Find a country that works better for him.”
- Aug. 30
Fans of the 49ers burn Kaepernick jerseys in protest, some while playing the national anthem.
- Sept. 1
49er team mate Eric Reid joins Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem. Seattle Seahawks Jeremy Lane sits out the anthem on a bench during a game in Oakland, telling reporters after the game he was "just standing behind Kaepernick."
- Sept. 2
Kaepernick announces he is donating $1 million to different organizations helping oppressed communities. Also on this day, 35 veterans publish an open letter in support of Kaepernick’s right to speak out against injustice.
- Sept. 4
Megan Rapinoe, a NWSL player for the Seattle Reign ‘took a knee’ (as the phrase was coined) during the national anthem in solidarity with Kaepernick. Rapinoe, who is gay, said she understood "what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties" and that white people should support people of color in their pursuit of equal justice. In a subsequent game, the Washington Spirit arrange to have the national anthem play before the teams took the field, releasing a statement objecting to Rapinoe’s "method of hijacking our organizations event to draw attention to what is ultimately a personal – albeit worthy – cause.”
- Sept. 5
- Sept. 9
Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos becomes the first player to kneel or sit during the anthem before a regular season game.
- Sept. 11
More protests from the Seahawks, Dolphins, Chiefs and Patriots. Linking arms makes its first appearance. Seattle Seahawk Doug Baldwin tweets a video explaining the linked arms, which he saw as a way of continuing the conversation Kaepernick starting and including those (like himself) with family connections to the military.
- March 17
Kaepernick, along with Ben Stiller, Jerome Jarre, Juanap Zurita, Chakabars and others raise funds and persuade Turkish Airlines to fly 60 tones of food, water and other aid to distressed Somalians.
The same day, Kaepernick’s sudden unpopularity in the NFL is addressed my Mike Freeman for the Bleacher Report. Freeman cites prevailing attitude of disgust with his protests and fears of fan backlash amid continuing criticism by the president as being behind the lack of interest behind Kaepernick’s services.
- March 20
Trump tweets: “NFL owners don’t want to pick (Kaepernick) up because they don’t want to get nasty tweet from Donald Trump.”
- Aug. 18
Kaepernick quietly goes about his life, working out, interviewing with teams and hosting “Know Your Rights” kids camps, according to Slate.com, which also notes: “Kaepernick – who threw 16 touchdown passes and just four interceptions for the San Francisco 49ers last season – remains unsigned, just as Trump predicted.”
- Sept. 23
Trump tweets that athletes on sports teams should be fired if they "disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) by refusing to stand for the national anthem," using a profane term for dissenting athletes.
- Sept. 24
In a tweet, Trump urged football fans to boycott NFL games if players refusing to stand for the national anthem aren’t fired or suspended.
On the same day, players from teams including the Ravens, Jaguars, Steelers, Bears, Dophins, Broncos, Bills, Browns, Patriots, Eagles, Falcons, Vikings, Bengals, Packers, Chargers, Chiefs, and Raiders knelt or locked arms during the Star Spangled Banner.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, also a close friend of Trump, issues a statement saying he is “deeply disappointed with the tone of the comments made by the president,” and defending players’ right to “peacefully effect social change and raise awareness in a manner they feel is most impactful.”
Some NASCAR team owners and drivers weigh in on the issue, telling the Associated press they don’t support the protesting players.
- Sept. 25
Trump continues a barrage of tweets against the protesting players, and cheering those who booed them. He gives a shout-out to NASCAR. “They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag – they said it loud and clear!”
NASCAR issues this statement: “Sports are a unifying influence in our society, bringing people of differing backgrounds and beliefs together. Our respect for the national anthem has always been a hallmark of our pre-race events. Thanks to the sacrificed of many, we live in a country of unparalleled freedoms and countless liberties, including the right to peacefully express one’s opinion.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweets: “All Americans R granted rights 2 peaceful protests Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable—JFK."
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady disagrees with Trump, calling his comments "divisive" and adding he wants to support his teammates, whatever their background or opinions. “You can voice your disagreement, I think that is great. It’s part of our democracy. As long as it is done in a peaceful, respectful way, that is what our country has been all about.”