Colin Kaepernick: From one man kneeling to a movement dividing a country

Colin Kaepernick: From one man kneeling to a movement dividing a country

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first protested against racial injustice and police brutality by kneeling down during the United States national anthem in the summer of 2016. Since then, a whole movement has grown around that gesture.

BBC Sport travelled to the US to investigate. A feature programme, On Bended Knee, will be broadcast on BBC Radio 5 live at 19:00 BST on Wednesday, and a special report will be shown during Newsnight on BBC Two from 22:30 BST.

“This is what lynchings look like in 2016.”

A video accompanies Colin Kaepernick’s Instagram post. It begins as two white police officers wrestle a black man to the floor.

One officer appears to cuff the man’s hands behind his back. Another, positioned by the man’s shoulders, tightly presses his head to the ground.

The same officer moves one hand away, reaching for his gun. He points it to the man’s chest, and fires.

Alton Sterling, 37, died of gunshot wounds to the chest and back.

Pinned down and shot in Louisiana

“Another murder in the streets because of the colour of a man’s skin, at the hands of the people who they say will protect us,” Kaepernick writes.

“When will they be held accountable?”

The next day, 6 July 2016, another black man is shot dead by a police officer.

Philando Castile, 32, is shot seven times during a traffic stop. He died in the driver’s seat with his girlfriend beside him and her four-year-old daughter in the back.

Police dashcam footage shows officer Jeronimo Yanez firing several times into the car. He pulled it over because of a broken brake light.

Police dashcam has been released of the Philando Castile shooting

The microphone on Yanez’s uniform picks up this exchange:

Yanez: “You have a licence and insurance?”


Castile: “Sir, I do have to tell you I have a firearm on me.”

Yanez: “OK, OK. Don’t reach for it then. Don’t pull it out.”

Castile: “I’m not pulling it out.”

Yanez: “Don’t pull it out.”

After the shots were fired, Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds took out her mobile phone and livestreamed from inside the car as the officer screamed for her not to move.

“Please don’t tell me my boyfriend just went like that,” she says.

“Please officer don’t tell me you just did this to him. You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his licence.”

Reynolds is handcuffed and held in the back of a police car with her daughter, who says: “Please stop cussing because I don’t want you to get shooted. I can keep you safe.”

‘I don’t want you to get shooted’: Inside police car after Castile shooting

Thursday, 7 July 2016.

A black former member of the US Army Reserve kills five police officers as a Black Lives Matter march is held in Dallas. The march was organised to protest against the shootings of the previous two days.

Micah Johnson, 25, is himself killed following a stand-off with police, who sent remotely detonated explosives into the car park where he had taken refuge.

The city’s police chief David Brown reveals Johnson told a negotiator he had wanted to kill white people, especially white police officers, because he was angry about the recent shootings of black men by police.

He is said to have shouted: “How many did I get?”

A step-by-step guide to Dallas shootings

‘A very deep thinker’

The tattoo across his chest reads: “Against all odds.”

Kaepernick was adopted, a mixed-race baby raised by a white family. The Kaepernicks had two young sons who died because of heart defects. They wanted another child.

Their boy grew up to become a superstar, and one of the most divisive figures in the United States.

At high school he was a brilliant baseball pitcher, but the NFL was his focus. He could throw the ball. A quarterback.

Kaepernick posted this photo with his mum Teresa with the caption: “She showed me how my heart was supposed to radiate! Love you!”

First, he had to reach the college game. It wasn’t easy. Scouts from the University of Nevada – the only one to eventually offer him a scholarship – watched the clips his older brother had burned to DVD, but even they were not convinced.

They took a gamble because they saw him dominate a high-school basketball game he really should have missed,