When Colin Kaepernick sat during the national anthem at an NFL preseason game in 2016, it started a debate that would involve dozens of players and owners, athletes in other sports and politicians, including the president of the United States.
His gesture has led to 2 1/2 years of protests, formal grievances, and vigorous denunciations. With a settlement announced Friday in Kaepernick’s grievance case against the NFL, one chapter has come to an end.
Aug. 26, 2016
Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, remains seated during the national anthem for a home preseason game.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he tells NFL Media.
Kaepernick had been outspoken about issues like protests by white supremacists and police shootings of unarmed black men.
“If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right,” he says.
The league initially responds by saying, “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.”
Kaepernick’s act draws praise and criticism. Drew Brees, the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, tells ESPN: “He can speak out about a very important issue. But there’s plenty of other ways that you can do that in a peaceful manner that doesn’t involve being disrespectful to the American flag.”
Sept. 1, 2016
Kaepernick kneels for the anthem in a preseason game in San Diego, instead of sitting, and is joined by a teammate, Eric Reid. He also announces he will donate $1 million to charitable organizations.
“Once again, I’m not anti-American,” Kaepernick says. “I love America. I love people. That’s why I’m doing this. I want to help make America better.”
Kaepernick is booed throughout the game by the home Chargers fans.
Sept. 5, 2016
President Barack Obama defends Kaepernick, saying, “I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about.”
Two days later, Commissioner Roger Goodell is more equivocal. Referring to Kaepernick, he tells The Associated Press, “I don’t necessarily agree with what he’s doing.”
“I support our players when they want to see change in society, and we don’t live in a perfect society,” he adds. “On the other hand, we believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL I personally believe very strongly in that.”
Sept. 11, 2016
In Week 1 of the regular season, several more players kneel or raise a fist during the anthem. Four days later, Megan Rapinoe of the U.S. women’s national soccer team also kneels during the anthem. The entire Indiana Fever team of the WNBA kneels as well, as do other athletes around the country, including, over the next month, some high school players.
Jan. 1, 2017
Kaepernick protests throughout the NFL season. He winds up starting 11 games, and the 49ers finish 2-14. Though the team is bad, Kaepernick’s adjusted yards per pass figure is a respectable 7.2. He has not played since.
Kaepernick opts out of his contract, hoping for a better situation. But no offers are forthcoming, even as average quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Mike Glennon, Josh McCown and E.J. Manuel find jobs.
Many suggest Kaepernick is being blackballed.
Aug. 9, 2017
The preseason begins with Kaepernick still unsigned. Anthem protests continue, in part prompted by deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. “The national anthem is a special moment to me,” Goodell says. “It’s a point of pride. That is a really important moment. But we also have to understand the other side that people do have rights and we want to respect those.”
Sept. 24, 2017
Anthem protests reach their peak after President Donald Trump says those players who do not stand for the anthem should be fired. Many players skip the national anthem altogether. Dozens of others kneel or lock arms on the sideline, joined, in some cases, by team owners.
Trump wrote on Twitter: “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the national anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
Protests continue through the season, and Trump continues to fault the league for not disciplining players.
Oct. 15, 2017
Kaepernick, still unsigned, files a grievance against the NFL, accusing all 32 teams of colluding to keep him out of the league.
April 25, 2018
NFL owners, players and league executives meet to discuss the protests. An audio recording obtained by The New York Times reveals that players are aggrieved that Kaepernick has not found a job. Owners are intent on finding a way to avoid Trump’s continued criticism and say that large numbers of fans and sponsors have become angry about the protests.
May 2, 2018
Reid, one of the players at the NFL meeting, files a grievance against the NFL, saying the league has blackballed him. He is joined by the players’ union. (Reid is signed by Carolina in late September and plays in 13 games.)
May 23, 2018
NFL owners rule that players can no longer kneel during the national anthem without leaving themselves open to punishment. But the league also says athletes can stay in the locker room during the ceremony.
Trump says he is pleased with the NFL’s new policy but does not think the players should be staying in the locker room in protest. If a player is not standing for the national anthem, Trump says, “maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”
In July, the union files a grievance over the policy.
Aug. 9, 2018
A handful of players protests as the preseason begins, drawing more condemnation from Trump.
Aug. 30, 2018
Kaepernick achieves an important win in his grievance against the NFL. An arbitrator, Stephen B. Burbank, says lawyers for Kaepernick have unearthed enough information for the case to proceed to a full hearing.
Sept. 3, 2018
Kaepernick becomes the face and voice of Nike’s latest “Just Do It” campaign. Like so much else involving him over the previous two years, it draws praise and condemnation.
Feb. 3, 2019
During the Super Bowl, Kaepernick posts on social media photos of athletes and celebrities wearing #imwithkap jerseys supporting him.
Feb. 15, 2019
The NFL reaches settlements with Kaepernick and Reid in their grievance cases. Terms of the settlements are not disclosed, and the players and the league reach a confidentiality agreement.