Sixth Grader stands up by sitting down for Pledge of Allegiance

(Tom DeCicco, Shutterstock.com)

Former star quarterback Colin Kaepernick may have ended his chapter challenging the National Football League (NFL), but a Florida student reminds us that Kaepernick's calls to recognize racism in the United States have been largely ignored.

An 11-year-old Lakeland, Florida boy was arrested and charged with disrupting a school function and resisting arrest without violence, according to The Ledger. The Lawton Chiles Middle Academy student, whose name has not been release because he is a minor, sat during the Pledge of Allegiance, calling the American flag racist and the National Anthem “offensive to Black people.”

The sixth grader was arrested on February 4th despite the fact that, according to a Polk County Public Schools spokesperson, students were “not required to participate” in the pledge. The individual acts of protest — and imbalanced punishment in response — should be all too familiar to anyone who remembers the developments surrounding Kaepernick's protests.

In 2016, Kaepernick began protesting racial injustice and systemic oppression in the US by kneeling during the National Anthem. His action started a wave of protests across the NFL, leading to a verbal attack by President Donald Trump who called the protesters “sons of bitches” that should be fired during a December 2017 rally. Kaepernick became a free agent after the 2016-2017 season, and was not signed by any team in the league. He filed a grievance against the NFL and last week settled for an undisclosed sum.

NBA superstar LeBron James voiced his support for Kaepernick in the days before the NBA All-Star Game. “I think it's important to stick up for what you believe in,” James told reporters.

“I stand with Kaep, I kneel with Kaep. I feel what he was talking about, and no one wanted to listen. No one ever really wanted to actually understand where he was coming from.”

James would know. The four-time NBA MVP also criticized President Trump in 2018, and was met with derision and dismissiveness from the conservative community, especially Fox News. Laura Ingraham swiped at James, opining that he should “shut up and dribble,” and calling James's comments “barely intelligible, not to mention ungrammatical.” The implication was that James, who went straight from high school to NBA stardom in a decision that earned him hundreds of millions of dollars, was uneducated.

However, much of the money that James has earned has gone straight back into underserved communities. In 2015, for instance, he pledged $42 million for 1,100 scholarships to the University of Akron for public high school students in Ohio. His educational funding efforts haven't stopped there; in 2018 he opened the I Promise School, a public school aimed at supporting at-risk children and preparing them for college.

In addition to supporting Kaepernick's stand, LeBron James recognized the risk that quarterback took in his quest for awareness.

“I think that anybody that would sacrifice their livelihood for the better of all of us — you know, I could respect that,” James said. “I mean, you got a guy who's basically lost his job because he wanted to stand for something that was more than just him. . . And I hope that the word of what he did will live on through American history, but also world history. Because it's important for all of us — not only African Americans, but for all of everybody that wants to stand up for something that's more than them.”

With the biggest superstar backing Kaepernick, and a movement spreading to a generation of aware activists, it's worth wondering for how long these displays of protest will be met with punishment — and who will stand up next.


About the Author

Jeremy Binckes is an experienced writer and editor who has reported on news, politics, culture and sports. He was most recently a news editor at Salon, but he has written articles for a number of publications.