An overview of the NFL kneeling protests.

By Connie Jin

During the 49ers' 2016 final preseason game, quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt for the national anthem instead of taking a seat on the bench in protest of racial injustice and police brutality in America. He explained,

"I am not going to show pride in 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."

Kaepernick's actions soon became a polarizing issue amongst the American public, often along racial divides, and sparked a wave of similar protests among atheletes that continues today.

The hashtag "#VeteransForKaepernick" was created. He was voted the most disliked member of the NFL in a 2016 poll. Several public figures condemned his actions and fans boycotted the NFL, leading to a drop in ratings. He also received death threats.



In a 2016 poll, 42 percent of African-Americans said they like Kaepernick 'a lot' as compared to 16 percent in 2014, while 37 percent of Caucasians said they disliked the quarterback in 2016 compared to 7 percent in 2014.

The Kaepernick Effect

Where and when did the protests occur? Take a look within the US and around the world – you might be surprised. These are just some of the many protests that have occured since August 26, 2016. Click on each marker for details of each protest.

Sources: ESPN.com, ThinkProgress.org


What have people been saying about the protests? Let's check out #TakeAKnee on Twitter.

As the movement grows, let's look back at the reason why Kaepernick knelt in the first place, and why those who kneel today still do so. Here are some statistics from The Guardian's The Counted database, which tracks people killed by police brutality each year.

Pick a year

Total Dead:


Number of people killed by race (per million)



Native American:






Asian/Pacific Islander:


The myth of the popular protest

A 2016 poll found that only 38 percent of Americans surveyed approved of players not standing for the anthem. How does that match up to past protests?

22 percent of all Americans approved of the Freedom Rides.

28 percent approved of the sit-ins.

The majority of Americans – 63 percent – had "unfavorable" feelings about the March on Washington. In 1966, 60 percent of Americans had a negative opinon of Martin Luther King Jr.

Now, these protests are viewed much more positively – even held up as models of success.But during their time, in fact many Americans thought these demonstrations would hurt the advancement of civil rights.

In a 1961 poll, 57 percent of Americans said that they believed sit-ins and other demonstrations by African-Americans would hurt their chances of being integrated in the South.These numbers sound strikingly similar to the 55 percent of Americans that said the Black Lives Matter movement distracts from real issues of racial discrimination in a September poll.

So what do these patterns mean for the future, and for the movement that Colin Kaepernick sparked when he took a knee last year?

When looking at polling data of attitudes towards protests taken at the time of the protests, it's important to realize that they reflect the attitudes of that time. Attitudes change, and while civil rights protestors may not connect with the hearts of American people during their time, they connect with the hearts of those to come.

When people protest, they have their eyes set on the future. And they should continue to do so.


APIs: Twitter, The Counted, Google Maps