San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick‘s ongoing decision not to stand during the national anthem in protest of state violence against African Americans falls within a history of Black athletes using their public platform to bring attention to racial injustice. Duke University scholar Mark Anthony Neal, in collaboration with several academic peers, created a new syllabus around Kaepernick’s protest to inform public conversations about Black athletes, professional sports leagues and racial justice.
They are conversations that Neal says don’t happen enough. "Too often, especially within the media and from those whose Whiteness—their privilege—insulates, empowers and protects, people speak without the requisite tools, without the requisite historic foundation and without necessary information," Neal writes in the introduction to the #ColinKaepernickSyllabus on his website. "This offers a toolbox of knowledge, links to resources and information. The #Kaepernick syllabus furthers the efforts to disrupt the silence, to make connections and to otherwise build on the work of Kaepernick, [sociologist Harry] Edwards, members of the WNBA, Bomani Jones, Serena Williams and so many others demanding that we speak and act."
Useful both in and out of the classroom, the syllabus (complete with hyperlinks) follows the model of previous syllabi created around the Ferguson uprising, the Charleston massacre and Beyoncé’s "Lemonade." Works cited range from contemporary pieces about the NFL’s history of ignoring structural issues to older ones by the likes of James Baldwin and Jackie Robinson. Before you dive in, here’s a sample of the included works:
- Harry Edwards, The Revolt of Black Athlete (1968)
- John Carlos and Dave Zirin, The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World (2011)
- Alex Haley, Interview with Jim Brown (1968)
- Jamilah King, Colin Kaepernick, Like Many Millennials, Embraces ‘Constructive Patriotism,’ (2016)
- James Baldwin, The Fight: Patterson Vs. Liston (1963)
- Jenée Desmond-Harris, If You Think millionaire Athlete Colin Kaepernick is Too Rich to Protest, You Don’t Understand activism (2016)
- Jackie Robinson, I Never Had It Made (1972)