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“Kaepernick & America”: A Screening and Discussion Held at Howard University

Photo courtesy of Shanell Holback.

Howard University’s student chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (HUABJ) hosted a screening of the documentary “Kaepernick & America” in the auditorium of the School of Social Work.

The “Kaepernick & America” documentary, directed by Ross Hockrow and Tommy Walker, highlights the controversy surrounding former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who began protesting police brutality in 2016. 

By pairing the graphic footage of police brutality and anti-Kaepernick protests, Hockrow and Walker visualized the ways Kaepernick’s controversial decision to “take a knee” amplified the connection between white supremacy and police brutality. 

Despite heavy criticism and the risk of losing his professional football career, Kaepernick began silently protesting police brutality during multiple pre-game ceremonies by refusing to stand for the national anthem. 

Included in the film’s series of interviews was Howard alumnus Steve Wyche. Wyche, a reporter for NFL Network, broke the story of Kaepernick’s silent protest in 2016 when he noticed the quarterback sitting on the sidelines instead of standing beside his team during the national anthem performance.

Under the headline “Colin Kaepernick explains why he sat during the national anthem,” Wyche gave Kaepernick an opportunity to express why he intentionally decided to make a controversial decision. The reasoning, according to Kaepernick, centered around the oppression and “unjust treatment of African-Americans and minorities in America.”  

Following the screening, Wyche and Walker sat alongside senior journalism major and HUABJ president Kendall Lanier for a post-screening discussion. During the discussion, Wyche continued to emphasize the importance of highlighting why Kaepernick decided to protest. 

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“I just felt the bigger point that was missed was why he did it,” Wyche expressed. “Over and over you hear what he did, but you never hear why he did it.”

In light of the controversy surrounding Kaepernick’s protest, Lenier asked Walker what made him open with graphic footage of a former Kaepernick fan burning their jersey. Walker did not hesitate to express why the decision was made. 

“The power of watching something that many of us disagree with, mixed with the standpoint that the fan had, helped guide us through where we were in that time in America,” Walker said.

Kathleen Gitachu, a Junior marketing major from Austin, Texas expressed her reaction to the documentary after the event. 

“I felt very enlightened,” Gitachu said. “The whole emphasis of how the story of why [Kaepernick protested] was never really told and the documentary helped bring that to light. I feel like I can watch it over and over again and take something new from it every time.”

Copy edited by Jadyn Barnett

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