Containment Language Surrounding Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem Protest

In recent weeks, the San Francisco 49ers have garnered a massive amount of national media attention, but not from the result of phenomenal football play. The entire nation has set its eyes on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose method of protesting social injustices towards minorities has ignited a nationwide conflagration of both intense criticism and immense support.

Attempting to raise awareness for various acts of police violence and other inequities against minorities, Kaepernick took the action of initially sitting (now kneeling in recent games), during renditions of the national anthem, as opposed to standing, which is customary at sporting events and other instances where the anthem is performed.

Image result for colin kaepernick kneelingColin Kaepernick (7) and teammate Eric Reid (35) kneeling during singing of national anthem.

While seemingly every individual in America possesses an opinion on Kaepernick’s actions and the controversy surrounding it, the influences of containment culture have permeated into conversations over Kaepernick, most notably in the criticisms of non-supporters.

Montel Williams, writer for Sports Illustrated, recently published an article discussing his stance of Kaepernick’s protest, but also, as will be focused on here, the nature of the language critics have utilized to scrutinize Kaepernick’s actions and the strong hint of containment culture behind many of their statements (link to article:

Williams introduces the containment language surrounding Kaepernick by describing how we should fear residing in a country where the public’s “sense of patriotism” leads them to “coerce or force these athletes to stand”. Dissecting this statement reveals several key elements of containment culture. Inherent in the protest critiques is a sector of the public lambasting Kaepernick for a lack of patriotism. Such displeasure over not displaying unity behind the flag and national anthem demonstrates a continuation of the binary sentiments that define containment. Separating from a common symbol of togetherness has stirred tremendous consternation among members of the nation, leading to either/or language from those like former Chicago Bears coach Mike Dikta, who claimed Kaepernick could “Get the hell out” if he did not like America. Williams also addresses that a serious dilemma exists when the public directs statements like Kaepernick “should look for another country to live in,”as such language feeds into the potential for infringement of civil liberties and rights.

Peaceful protest is an act protected by the first amendment, something generally encouraged in a nation where citizens take pride in advocating for social justice. Those against Kaepernick’s protesting appear to be content with a sacrificing of rights for the sake of unity against an a perceived “enemy”, another key aspect of containment. The various reasons behind Kaepernick’s protests are being ignored, as the significant piece of his acts, to critics, is the disbandment it has set forth throughout the NFL and even other levels of sports.

Protest and containment language in sports may appear to be an unlikely combination, but given the divisive nature of our modern culture, coupled with the presence of containment culture, similar situations may perhaps grow more commonplace in the future.



3 thoughts on “Containment Language Surrounding Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem Protest”

  1. I really love your analysis of both Montel Williams’ article and of Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem. I have never really considered this before reading your insight, but now that I think about it, I do believe the public outcry associated with it is a form of containment culture.

    For example, in the Elaine Tyler May reading, May talked about how during both the cold war and post-9/11 periods, nationalism increased dramatically. The fact that many people are upset with Kaepernick’s actions is a form of nationalism itself. I believe that many people have strongly united behind the United States and patriotism has surged in a society and time where terror threats are strong. Thus, many people are extremely upset with Kaepernick’s actions, as they believe it is a disgrace to the country.


  2. The level of “national pride” felt by a very vocal portion of the American populace is indeed concerning. It seems particularly odd coming from people who claim to stand behind American values, given that in essence, even as they try to celebrate our freedoms and the virtues of America which are lacking elsewhere, they simultaneously are protesting the actual use of those freedoms. This has interesting parallels with the contradictory rhetoric of the cold war era as well. In both cases there are clearly contradictions taking place, however they are ignored for the sake of nationalism.


  3. I firmly believe in what you’ve said about the hyper patriotism within this country and that a system that promotes that kind of culture can result in the repression of certain rights like the right to assembly and peaceful protest. I think that Kaepernick’s relationship to the BLM movement further also echoes the racial tensions that were a strong part of Cold War culture. The current tension between the Black Lives Matter movement, which was the driving factor for Kaepernick’s actions, and the All Lives Matter movement, which was created as a countermovement to what its members call a “racist” organization in reference to the BLM movement, echo the attitudes of many during the rise of the Civil Rights Movement. Instead of creating a unified and harmonious community through a single movement, a section of people have decided to separate themselves, much like how many white people during the Cold War fled to the suburbs.


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