Why more NFL players are protesting during the national anthem — in their own words.

When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench during the national anthem before an August preseason game against Green Bay, he was the only one.

Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," the quarterback told NFL.com following the game.  


What started as a lone player's attempt to spark a conversation about police overreach and violence rapidly became the subject of national attention and debate, leaving many wondering: What would happen when the season began in earnest? Would the quarterback continue to sit alone?

In week one, Kaepernick's protest was joined by nearly a dozen players around the league.

Some, like Miami Dolphins running back Arian Foster, took a knee during the anthem. Others, like Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters, raised their fists in the air, echoing John Carlos and Tommie Smith's iconic protest from the 1968 Summer Olympics.

According to Robert Kelmko of Sports Illustrated's MMQB, over 70 current and former players are "discussing and debating" Kaepernick's act and possible next steps via text.

Some commentators — and even a few of their teammates — have criticized the protesters for disrespecting the flag and veterans.  But for many of the players showing solidarity, their message is too important to waste the moment.

Here's why they're doing it, in their own words:

Many spoke about their desire to use their position in the public eye to keep the conversation going about the role of police in communities of color.

A few team executives have criticized Kaepernick. But one owner — Miami Dolphins' Steve Ross — stood up for his players' right to speak their minds:

And the man who started it all? He'd rather do what critics are asking him to do. On one condition:

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.