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Take the knee origin: What is the history behind the gesture and what does it mean for Black Lives Matter movement?


BLACK Lives Matter’s iconic symbol of power – taking the knee – has been a coronerstone of the global movement against racial oppression.

It all started with an NFL player called Colin Kaepernick who sat on the bench when the US anthem was played on August 26, 2016.


Taking a knee is a protest against the unfair treatment of Black Americans[/caption]

What does take a knee mean?

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab came under fire for saying it was a “symbol of subjugation and subordination”, believing it was from popular television show Game of Thrones. So what does it really mean?

Take a knee is a protest against the unfair treatment of Black Americans – but has now become a globalised symbol of fighting racism.

It initially gained worldwide attention in American football, as some players would go down on one knee during the national anthem at the beginning of the game.

The act is now performed by people across the globe as part of the Black Lives Matter movement, which is battling racism in particularly within the police following the death of George Floyd.

Getty Images – Getty

Colin Kaepernick started the take a knee movement[/caption]

Where does the take a knee movement come from?

It started during the American football pre-season in 2016 when the San Francisco 49ers’ black quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat instead of standing during the national anthem.

By the fourth game, the gesture, which he said was intended to raise awareness of police brutality towards African Americans, had become a national talking point.

That was when Kaepernick, seeking a dignified way to protest without offending military personnel, tried something else – he knelt.

Getty Images – Getty

Black Lives Matter protesters take the knee across the UK[/caption]

The protest enraged Trump and his supporters, who completely missed the point and tried to make it about “disrespecting the flag”, which is not what it’s about at all.

US President Barack Obama defended the player’s constitutional right to make a statement, and pointed to the long history of sports figures protesting.

Kaepernick said at the time: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.”

Since then the movement has been used all over the world, including the first Premier League game of the season, when all 22 players took the knee when the whistle blew.

Why are people taking a knee in support of George Floyd?

On June 2, 2020 over 60 cops knelt before George Floyd protesters as a mark of “dignity and respect” in North Carolina.

Stunned witnesses say the moment in Fayetteville brought protesters and officers to tears.

Floyd died on May 25, 2020, in police custody after getting arrested for apparently trying to use a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes.

While not directly related to the symbol of protest, Mr Floyd was murdered after a white officer knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, as he screamed “I can’t breathe”.

Protesters across the globe are now taking the knee, along with a number of football clubs including Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City showing their support.



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