Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Athletic Disobedience: Providing a Context for Analysis of Colin Kaepernick’s Protest

Tom Rorke, Adam Copeland


The interface between sport and political protest is not a new phenomenon. New iterations and new debates have arisen recently. Colin Kaepernick, backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, found a powerful and controversial form of political action when he decided to sit for the playing of the national anthem prior to a preseason game on August 26, 2016. Kaepernick did this to draw greater attention to police violence against black and brown people in the United States. The story gained traction in the media, spurring on a renewed discussion about the intersection between athletics, Americanism, protest, and race.

This paper will provide an overview of the Kaepernick protest, analyzing it through historical, sociological, and philosophical lenses. The specifics of the protest will be presented, including important interpretations of the protest, in order to show the debates that frame the prevailing ideas about how athletes like Kaepernick should behave. Following the introduction of relevant interpretations of the protest, historical ties will be made to earlier protests that will better situate Kaepernick’s protest. After the protest is historically situated, a number of philosophic principles that scholars should consider when thinking about Kaepernick’s protest will be introduced. Ultimately, the goal of this paper is to offer an informative foundation from which other scholarly interpretations and arguments can be made and which other scholars can reference.

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