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24th Sep 2017

27 Jaguars and Ravens players kneel prior to NFL London game, most ever in one game

The movement is gathering momentum

Wayne Farry

It is gathering momentum.

For over a year now NFL fields have been home to one of the most organic and powerful protests of recent memory. It began with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who initially sat and then began kneeling during the American national anthem in protest of police brutality in the country.

His protest was celebrated and vilified by many and a large number of observers believe it is because of this that he now finds himself without a team. Nonetheless, his protest has inspired many.

That inspiration was evidenced today at Wembley Stadium, where the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens are currently facing off as part of the NFL London series.

Prior to kick-off, a total of 27 players from both sides took a knee during the rendition of Star Spangled Banner, the most at any professional game to date.

Those that didn’t kneel stood with arms interlocked in a show of unity, with the most notable participant being Jaguars (and Fulham Football Club) owner Shahid Khan.

The scale of the protest illustrates the size of the movement initiated by Kaepernick, one which has had an even bigger spotlight shone on it due to recent comments made by American president Donald Trump.

During a speech and – shock horror – in several tweets this week, Trump called upon NFL owners to fire players who refuse to stand for the national anthem, and suggested that they should “find something else to do”.

The comments, which you can see below, also referred to playing the sport professionally as a “privilege” rather than the culmination of years of hard work with the goal of reaching an elite level of sport.

The scenes at Wembley will be welcomed by supporters of the movement, which has regularly and peacefully called for greater equality in the US and an end to the hateful rhetoric which has become even more prevalent in the last 18 months.

It will also no doubt ignite fiercer debate on an issue – and president – which in recent days has seen the NBA champions Golden State Warriors essentially reject the customary invite to the White House and led Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James call Trump a “bum”.

One way or another it appears we are only seeing the beginnings of a protest movement which gathers momentum by the hour.