Athletes and Protest

 In Blog, Elementary, Lessons and Ideas, Neil Andersen, Secondary

In late summer, 2016, Colin Kaepernick, a pro football player, refused to stand during the playing of the American national anthem that began each game. His refusal to stand was in protest of police treatment of people of colour.

His actions created a fascinating site of struggle as fans, management, the military and politicians each interpreted his actions. Other athletes joined his protests.

This is a very useful and timely opportunity to understand and appreciate many issues: abuse of power, roles of athletes, inequity, professional sports, afro hair cuts, etc.

What Students Will Learn:

Students will explore the relationship between sport and politics.

Students will learn how to locate, understand and assess media experiences.

Students will consider why different people might interpret media messages differently.

Students will reflect on how their media literacy skills help them understand and assess media experiences.


Expectations (from Ontario’s Language 1 – 8):

1.3 express opinions about ideas, issues, and/or experiences presented in media texts, and give evidence from the texts to support their opinions

1.4 explain why different audiences might respond differently to the same media text

4.2 explain how their skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing help them to make sense of media texts


What Teachers Will Do:

Provide students with time and research tools including, if possible, networked computers.

Some students might require a list of useful website URLs, e.g.:

Because of controversy, Kaepernick’s No. 7 now NFL’s top-selling

Obama defends Kaepernick’s national anthem protest

Marshall standing for anthem and for ‘patriot’ Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick and a Brief History of Protest in Sports

Famous political protests in sports

Why Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest is catching on

Support students as they research, discuss and create a podcast, a video, an essay or a Slides/PowerPoint/Keynote presentation.

What Students Will Do:

To the student:

Should athletes use their celebrity to make political statements?

Some people think that they should while others think they should keep quiet and play.

Colin Kaepernick, an American pro footballer, refused to stand for the playing of the American National Anthem to protest the unequal treatment of African-Americans. Sportscasters, coaches, other players and even President Obama expressed opinions.

Research the history of political protest in sports. Suggested search term: “history of political protest in sports”

Discuss whether or not athletes should have the right to protest at official events.

Could this happen at a Canadian game?

What political issue(s) might cause players to sit or kneel in protest during Oh Canada?

Present your research and your responses to some of the above questions.


How Students Will Demonstrate Their Learning:

Students will summarize their research on the relationship between sport and politics.

Students will explain how and why different people might respond differently to athletes’ protests, including their own opinions.

Students will explain how they used their language skills to understand, discuss and represent their learning.

(These lesson ideas are adaptable to both elementary and secondary school classrooms – ed.)

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