Despite not playing in the NFL for over a year, Colin Kaepernick is dominating NFL discussions. The former Pro Bowler and Super Bowl quarterback who decided to silently, and peacefully, protest police brutality by sitting for, and then taking a knee during, the national anthem. When asked about the motivations for his protest Kaepernick was very clear, saying: "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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."
Not surprisingly, and keeping with historical precedent, a lot of white America was outraged. They claimed Kaepernick was disrespecting the flag, that his motives were selfish, that he had no right to protest due to his social position, among myriad other rationalization for their disdain. Much of Black America, in turn, showered Kaepernick with support, his jersey was the top selling jersey in the country and as it became more apparent that Kaepernick would not be signed many boycotted the NFL for what they saw as targeting by the NFL. For his part, Kaepernick has filed a collusion grievance alleging that the league owners have coordinated to keep him out of the league as punishment for his protest. While many acknowledge this is a hard case to prove, very few argue that Kaepernick is out of the league for any other reason.
Most recently, Colin Kaepernick was named the face of Nike and their ad campaign marking the 30 year anniversary of their slogan, “Just Do It.” It is clear Kaepernick and his protest have resonated and are not going away anytime soon. Therefore it is crucial our young people understand the context and nuances of the protest, its criticisms, and its accolades. In the week long unit, Taking A Knee: The NFL and Racism, students examine why Kaepernick first began his protest, the history his protest builds on, as well as the consequences and legacy of his protest. Each lesson has a Do First, a Close Read, an Extension Activity, and a Exit Ticket. All questions are Text Dependent and intended to facilitate critical thinking and critical consciousness. The unit culminates with a circle where students apply their knowledge and are asked to reflect on and consider how they will act on this knowledge to make the world a better place. Follow this link to get a digital copy of Taking a Knee: The NFL and Racism.