Ever since people noticed Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality, athletes have joined him in solidarity, while sports fans and the media take note of who else joins in. But there are some instances where, especially in recent days, a kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner” could easily be mistaken for an act of protest, and for Colts tight end Dwayne Allen, that was the case. During Sunday’s Colts-Texans game, NBC pointed out Allen kneeling on the sideline after the national anthem, which they later clarified was a prayer, something that he’s been doing for years.
Dwayne Allen said a prayer after the National Anthem. It was not a protest. #SNF pic.twitter.com/G1fzr910NC— SNF on NBC (@SNFonNBC) October 17, 2016
That didn’t stop people from sending him angry messages on Twitter, and it got bad to the point where Allen and the Colts made a video explaining that his kneeling has always been as a prayer:
For over 4 years, @Dallen83 has knelt in prayer at the end of the National Anthem for every game. Sunday was no different: pic.twitter.com/EMVM8P9aWP— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) October 19, 2016
"For every game of my career, I've taken a knee towards the end of our anthem to say a prayer for every man that steps foot on that field. Because of recent events, I have to stand here and explain to you why I'm kneeling on the field. After reviewing some of the comments over the social media platforms, I realize that sometimes a few will spoil the bunch, but it was a vast majority that were expressing words of hate. Not love, not devotion, and not pride for our great nation.
What I want most is for this world to be a better place for everyone who lives in it, for this country to be a better America, for everyone that lives in it.
And for those reasons, I'll continue to kneel, and I'll continue to pray."
That’s not to say he’s against what Kaepernick and other athletes are doing. When his teammate Antonio Cromartie took a knee in September, Allen told IndyStar he and his team supported Cromartie’s protest. On Wednesday, he used his opportunity to both further support the act of protesting, and to renounce people who send vitriolic messages to those who protest:
Emotional #Colts Dwayne Allen defends his right to kneel and pray at the end of national anthem. pic.twitter.com/wbZdRDTFeW— Clark Wade (@ClarkWade34) October 19, 2016
“Man, I just think it’s a shame that, in this day and age, in our country that we have such a divide over something that we all have the constitutional right to do, and that’s to protest. I was not protesting. I was praying. But whether I was protesting or not, it doesn’t give the right for others to use those words of hate against me.
If you want to show patriotism, show patriotism. Have pride about this great nation. Show your love and devotion for this great nation. Don’t use words of hate to try to harm someone else.
If you wanna talk about my play, how I’m often injured -- yo, that’s part of the territory. I get it. But to just use words of hate to try to bring me down because you thought I was protesting something, and you want to mask, what really is in your heart, the hatred under the false pretense of patriotism, that’s not right.”
And he’s correct. His situation may be an edge case filled with misinterpretation, but there have been plenty of other black athletes who peacefully protested and got racist death threats in return, like Nebraska linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey in late September. It never ceases to be heartbreaking.
It would benefit everyone to step back, pause, figure out why people are protesting, bring a pair of open ears, and listen. Just listen.