This is my photo of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem in protest against police brutality and social injustice in America.
Kaepernick is an interesting character, he came onto the 49ers soon replacing Alex Smith and in a march to the Super Bowl every one loved him. In celebration his kissed his biceps in a statement that was intended to be about the bible verse tattoos that adorn his arms, but were nonetheless criticized for having too many tattoos, supposedly unacceptable as a franchise quarterback. Then as 49ers floundered he was reviled and then injured and then designated back-up quarterback. Then after a summer of tweeting about police brutality without much attention, he took it live. First sitting during the national anthem, but then re-evaluated and decided to instead take a knee in effort to demonstrate that it was not about disrespect to the flag, the country, the armed services, but to protest some of the social injustices our country faces. And again is he simultaneously reviled and celebrated.
I'm not there or here to offer my opinion on his protest, I'm here to cover it. At the Rams game, the 49res staff wouldn't let us in the mix to cover, which was fair, we aren't normally allowed in front of the bench pre-game, though I was disappointed that I couldn't get any decent angle on it and instead had to get him running onto the field, leaving the money-shot to team photographer Michael Zagaris who LIVES to tell these stories, and who I also got running onto the field ;)
But this game, the PR staff gave us the cue of when we could approach, and allowed us to get the photo we all wanted/needed for our editors. As photographers all tried to get an angle, myself included, we were all coincidentally kneeling, though not for the sake of protest, but for the sake of photojournalism. Once I had Kaepernick and teammates kneeling, I felt I had the shot.
Ya know, some tight headshot, some loose teammates, and I wasn't anticipating anything outrageous happening so I stood up and got some of teammates holding their fists in the air in support, solidarity, what have you.
That's when I saw the shot. Not Kaepernick kneeling, because without context that could be him just taking a knee for an injured teammates, but Kaepernick kneeling while a military member holds the flag displayed on the field.
A combination of journalistic integrity and speed, I rarely do any image post-processing other than a crop and tone that applies to the entire image, and what I submitted on deadline (above) was no different. But you'll see the one I saved for my archive/portfolio, I did brighten up the area where they are kneeling in order to highlight and allow your eye to see that this isn't just another flag, player, stadium photo.
Sports are such a strange beast. I am SO fortunate and grateful to cover professional sports but sometimes I feel disenchanted with the whole corporate approach to competitiveness and think what's the point? But then I'm reminded, sports have this undeniable and incredible way to be both the distraction and the commentary on our current state.
Update: We've since not been permitted to photograph from this location and there isn't always a giant flag at games so I'm extra thankful for this opportunity and this image.
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