[11/18/19] – Colin Kaepernick NFL Workout

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick – then quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers – began protesting during the national anthem for the United States by taking a knee 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.” This protest continued through 2016 National Football League (NFL) season garnering much attention from politicians, corporate owners, activists, and citizens. In May of 2018 the NFL proposed a policy that would mandate all players stand during the national anthem. Later in July of 2018 the Miami Dolphins announced plans to suspend or fine players who kneeled or otherwise protested during the national anthem. This prompted a significant backlash from players and fans culminating in the suspension of this policy indefinitely, pending critical review by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. In the three years since Kaepernick was released from the 49ers, he has been blacklisted by the NFL. On Saturday, November 16, 2019, the NFL invited Kaepernick to an individual combine where he would be able to meet with NFL teams interested in acquiring the quarterback. The response from fans and media has been mixed. One thing is for sure, if Kaepernick were to have beat his wife or gotten arrested for a series of DUIs as opposed to challenging the systemic racism that manifests itself in the killing of black people, he would likely still be employed today. This week we examine the issue of systemic racism through the lens of Colin Kaepernick and the NFL. We focus on issues of social movements, institutionalized racism, and the social construction of sports.

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Colin Kaepernick NFL Workout

Learning Objectives

LO1: Explain how a conflict theorist might view the issue of NFL protesting.

LO2: Discuss how socialization influences one’s understanding of race and racism.

LO3: Discuss how the social construction of sports is driven by social factors related to social justice.


Colin Kaepernick refuses to attend NFL tryout session

Though it was billed as the first step in Colin Kaepernick’s journey back to the National Football League (NFL), the 32-year-old unsigned player switched the venue to a nearby high school and held his own session. Kaepernick said it was to allow the media to be present. However, the NFL released a statement saying it was “disappointed that Colin didn’t appear for his workout” and said his decision had no effect on his status in the league. Al Jazeera’s Rahul Pathak reports.

Will Colin Kaepernick play in the NFL again?

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick will work out in front of NFL teams Saturday for the first time since he last played professional football nearly three years ago. Since the end of the 2016 season, when Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice against black Americans, no team has offered him a contract. CBS sports anchor James Brown joins “CBS This Morning” after speaking with the NFL commissioner about the workout.

Colin Kaepernick explains why he won’t stand during National Anthem

Raw Video – 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick explains why he is refusing to stand during the National Anthem.

Discussion Questions

How do systems like the economy and government work to perpetuate the social construction of race/ethnicity in the United States? What is the role of the media in fueling the perceptions of race relations through sports? How does the media work to maintain the ideas that race is real and important for humans to take into consideration when interacting with other humans?

Why might the symbol of someone kneeling during the national anthem mean something totally different to an individual depending on their socialization experience? What agents of socialization are most responsible for how one responds to agents of social change like Mr. Kaepernick?

In what ways might people in the United States associate the NFL protests with other movements like the Black Lives Matter movement? How might this shape their support or lack thereof for the protesting NFL players?

How might Karl Marx might view the relationship between the NFL team owners and the players?

Is it appropriate for NFL players to use their position in the public sphere to advocate for causes they believe in? Are some causes more appropriate? Why or why not?

Why might the NFL be more lenient with players who are arrested and convicted of crimes ranging from murder to misdemeanors? What does this say about the expectations of NFL players off the field vs. on the field? If Mr. Kaepernick were to have engaged with his interest in social justice on any other day than Sunday, how may this have changed the outcomes?



Which of the following agents of socialization has the power to influence how one understands their own race and racism in American society?
a. Media
b. Family
c. Education
d. Peers
e. All of the above

Using a conflict approach to view the issue of NFL protesting, Marx would likely identify the players as the _______ and the owners as the _______ and suggest that their struggle can ultimately result in positive change for the NFL, and society more broadly.
a. Proletariat; Bourgeoisie
b. Owners of the means of production, Workers in the means of production
c. Bourgeoisie; Proletariat
d. morally correct; morally incorrect

_______ refers to structures and systems built into the fabric of social order that perpetuate racial ideologies and a system of disproportionate disadvantage for anyone other than white in the United States.
a. Omnipresent racial order
b. Ubiquitous prejudice
c. Institutional racism
d. Social capital model


Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/m-gucci

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