How a sportsman’s simple act brought the world to its knees

World

How a sportsman’s simple act brought the world to its knees

Colin Kaepernick’s gesture has snowballed into a universal symbol of anger at racism

Ben Riley Smith

When the reserve quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers dropped to one knee during the American national anthem at a pre-season game in 2016 few took notice. But scroll on four years and Colin Kaepernick’s gesture, used to indicate his anger at racial injustice in the US, has become a rallying cry for today’s protesters.

In many of the more than 140 US cities that have erupted in anger at the death of George Floyd, demonstrators are “taking a knee” and asking police to do the same. In Washington, hundreds who had gathered before the White House on Tuesday dropped to a single knee, some raising a fist, in defiance against the curfew ordering them off the street. Countless videos have been shared during the past week of police acquiescing to protesters’ calls and kneeling.

Those scenes can become emotional, with protesters applauding and even hugging officers. At times they have defused tensions, taken as a nod to the injustice driving the protests. But at other times lines of officers have stood impassively, shields in hands and protective helmets on, despite the chants of “take a knee”...

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