Colin Kaepernick will forever be known more for what he did on a football field during the national anthem than what he did on the field after the anthem played.
And that's saying something, considering Kaepernick led the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance.
But four years after Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem, generating wide-ranging reaction from every locale from the White House to your neighbor's house, the controversy over kneeling has become mainstream.
The conversation — especially in the days and weeks since George Floyd's death under the knee of a former Minneapolis police officer — that Kaepernick always claimed he was trying to start about equality and how Blacks are treated by police is everywhere.
So, as sports returned last week, the question that loomed was whether kneeling would be not just present, but potentially prevalent. After all, the NFL — which distanced itself from the conversation as well as Kaepernick — has pledged a quarter of a billion dollars to social justice causes. NBA and the NFL are allowing players to alter uniforms for Black Lives Matters causes, which makes them anything but uniform.
And while we're there, the slippery slope of allowing one cause above all other causes is fraught with peril.
For instance, the NBA's deafening silence on Hong Kong's fight for equality as the league still makes hundreds of millions in business deals with China screams at best of hypocrisy and at worst a hollow attempt not at fighting social injustice but placating the players. So, too, with the NFL, which has fined players for the smallest deviations of uniform protocol, including a player wearing pink shoes to honor his mother who died of breast cancer. But now they will allow decals on helmets of victims of police brutality, but there's never been a mention of the idea of putting initials of police officers killed in the line of duty on helmets or jerseys.
When Major League Baseball returned last week — with the BLM logo spray-painted on the back of each pitching mound — its season opener started with a pre-anthem ceremony with Yankees and Nationals players kneeling (socially distanced, of course) with a black rope connecting them all. It was a moment of silence to support the fight for social justice, then, all the players stood as the anthem was played.
OK, no anthem protests and still calling attention to the conversation of social injustice. A better situation, no? Trying to please both sides in some ways?
It lasted one game.
In the second game of the season, many of the Dodgers and the Giants kneeled during the anthem after the moment of awareness for social justice.
Sure, you can question why, considering Kaepernick knelt during the anthem for maximum exposure and the utmost impact. And it worked, as MLB gave the conversation its own moment, every bit as clear and noteworthy as the anthem ceremony itself.
But again, kneeling at this point is accepted, almost begging the question that if the protest worked, is continuing the protest needed?
And while many viewed Kaepernick's protest with disdain, you have to wonder how the supporters of kneeling — from the old-schoolers who backed him from the start to the growing number who have reviewed and changed their position since Floyd's death — will react to a protest to the changes that Kaep's protest generated.
Because Sam Coonrod, a journeyman pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, did just that last week, standing for the BLM moment of silence.
Here's Coonrod's quote after the Giants' season opener: "I'm a Christian. I believe that I can't kneel before anything besides God. I just can't get on board with a couple things I've read about BLM, how they lean towards Marxism. They said some negative things about the nuclear family."
Standing or kneeling, the swinging pendulum of protests never stops these days, huh?
Contact Jay Greeson at email@example.com