NFL

When Did Colin Kaepernick First Protest the National Anthem?

Colin Kaepernick, once again, trended on social media over a misunderstanding.

The confusion was fitting, given the date. Various sports teams boycotted games on Aug. 26, 2020, to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man from Wisconsin.

Kaepernick’s name went viral partially because of the supposed fact that the former 49ers quarterback protested the national anthem on Aug. 26, 2016.

What seemed like an amazing coincidence isn’t true at all. Here is a complete timeline of Colin Kaepernick and his national anthem protests.

When did Colin Kaepernick first protest the national anthem?

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There is a widespread belief that Colin Kaepernick first protested the anthem on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016.

That date has meaning for reasons covered later, but that supposed fact is wrong. Kaepernick’s first known national anthem protest actually occurred 12 days earlier.

For necessary background, Kaepernick — who once led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance — was injured early in the 2016 preseason. Kaepernick missed the end of the 2015 season with a shoulder injury; he also had surgeries on his right thumb and left knee that offseason.

New 49ers coach Chip Kelly kept Kaepernick out of the August 14 preseason opener. Kaepernick didn’t dress and sat on the bench during the national anthem.

Although Kaepernick’s first gesture went unnoticed, he repeated the act six days later. The scenario was exactly the same: Kelly held Kaepernick out of a preseason game — this time against the Broncos — which meant Kaepernick didn’t dress.

Kaepernick sat on the bench for the anthem, then cheered his teammates on in a 31-24 49ers victory.

Where does August 26 fit into Kaepernick’s story?

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The third game of the preseason is often cited as the most important for starters — or potential starters.

Colin Kaepernick made his 2016 preseason debut on August 26 against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

Dressed in the 49ers’ traditional home uniform, Kaepernick completed two of his six passes for 14 yards. Kaepernick added 14 rushing yards on four carries.

A trivia fact lost to time: Kaepernick didn’t start the game that night. Blaine Gabbert, the former Jaguars bust, led the first two drives.

Kaepernick’s performance that night is lost to time, too. Everyone from fans to media members saw the vivid images of Kaepernick, in a jersey donning his name, sitting on the bench.

There was no mistaking the sight. Unlike the rest of his teammates and coaches, Kaepernick remained seated as the anthem played.

When did Colin Kaepernick first kneel for the anthem?

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Another common misconception about Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest is the kneeling didn’t start until the regular season.

Like when he first protested, that is not true. Kaepernick and defensive back Eric Reid each took a knee before preseason finale at San Diego on Sept. 1, 2016.

Why did Kaepernick go from sitting to kneeling? Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret who briefly auditioned in the NFL, is to thank.

Boyer wrote Kaepernick an open letter in the summer of 2016. Although Boyer admitted he first felt “angry” at Kaepernick’s protest, he understood why the 49ers quarterback sat.

In an interview later that year with HBO’s Real Sports, Boyer explained he and Kaepernick discussed a compromise for protesting.


“We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammates. Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect. When we’re on a patrol, you know, and we go into a security halt, we take a knee, and we pull security.”

Kaepernick took a knee for the entire 2016 season. He has not played in the NFL since January 2017.

Because Kaepernick wasn’t dressed the first two times he sat, the confusion of when his protests first began is understandable. But, it has been over four years for people to learn the complete timeline.

In short, the mass boycotts around sports on Aug. 26, 2020, did coincide with a day Colin Kaepernick protested the anthem. However, it wasn’t the coincidence that people thought it was.

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