Jelani Jenkins: Why I Knelt During the National Anthem—And Why It’s Time to Stand Up

Source: Time

By Jelani Jenkins

 A linebacker for the Miami Dolphins

It takes a village to raise a child. At a very young age, I was taught that God has a special plan for me and my life. My parents raised me to be confident in my own skin and to love each and every person unconditionally. They also taught me the importance of reading, studying, and learning from the elders and ancestors who preceded me. That being said, the ascension of my family and community has always been the driving force in my life—and will continue to be.

What I want is simple; equal rights and equal opportunities for every single person living in this country. The same dream Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had. The same dream my great grandfather, Esau Jenkins, had as he fought for equal rights in Charleston, S.C. He fought the same issues we are still fighting today and now, he will be honored in Washington, D.C. at the newNational Museum of African American History and Culture’s permanent exhibit on “Defining Freedom, Defending Freedom: The Era of Segregation.” So to stand idly by and witness men and children who look like me being senselessly shot and killed is not an option. No more hashtags. Enough is enough. Racial, social and economic inequality is very real in this country, and it is time for real change with real results. In order to help stimulate meaningful change, sometimes it takes a controversial—but meaningful—stand. After standing with my teammates as we honored those who were victims of the 9/11 attacks with a moment of silence, I knelt during the singing of the national anthem. I have the utmost love and respect for those who risk their lives and died serving this country. Several of my close family members have served in the military. I do not have an ounce of hate in my body and absolutely have no intentions to disrespect the military. I come from a spirit of love and I aim to unite—not divide. This is not about football, the flag, the military, or Jelani Jenkins. This is about the message: equality for all.

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