Over a year after 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first knelt during the national anthem in protest of police brutality, protests in the NFL spiked dramatically after President Trump attacked players who followed Kaepernick’s example. In recent weeks many more players knelt, locked arms, or stayed in the locker room during the anthem in response to Trump’s speech and series of tweets. During the flurry of media attention on the NFL, scholars Rashawn Ray and Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve wrote an Op-ed for NBC News about not losing sight of the original purpose of the protests.
Instead of focusing on the political implications of the president’s tweets or changes in protests over the past week (such as owners joining their players on the field), Ray and Van Cleve reiterate research on the violent repercussions of racial bias in policing. They emphasize that black athletes, even NFL stars, are subject to the same dangers of racial profiling as all other African Americans. In an MSNBC spot discussing the Op-ed, Ray told the panel,
“We really have to reorient the narrative. This isn’t about someone standing or sitting, this is about the fact that black lives matter. This is about the fact that football players, basketball players, baseball players, once they leave those stadiums they are black and brown men. And unfortunately in our society it doesn’t matter if you are affluent or less affluent, unfortunately you might be actually profiled by the police, and unfortunately that particular profiling can turn deadly.”