Steve Wyche: More people are understanding why Colin Kaepernick took a knee
"There's definitely a large populous out there that doesn't agree with the protests and the aftermath behaviours but there are more and more trying to understand the underlying causes which is a first to me"
By Cameron Hogwood
Last Updated: 17/06/20 2:37pm
NFL Network's Steve Wyche believes more people are finally opening their eyes to the reason why Colin Kaepernick decided to take a knee during the national anthem back in 2016.
It was never about the American flag or the military, as President Donald Trump pushed, but instead systemic racism and the unlawful killing of black men and women at the hands of local law enforcement.
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Wyche was among the first to speak with Kaepernick about his peaceful protest having seen the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback kneel twice while inactive in pre-season, before kneeling for a third time upon suiting up following his return from injury.
"As we saw, people saw him not standing for the national anthem as the story instead of why he wasn't which is the real story," Wyche told Sky Sports News' Richard Graves.
"That's something we are not seeing as much of this time around, except for when Drew Brees stepped in the other day with his remarks.
"But more and more people are starting to understand the why and how we got here as opposed to certain actions.
"There's definitely a large populous out there that doesn't agree with the protests and the aftermath behaviours but there are more and more trying to understand the underlying causes which is a first to me."
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has seen the Black Lives Matter movement shift back into focus across the world, with many NFL players using their platform to call for reform.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been seen to follow up weak initial statements from the league by publicly apologising to players for not listening to them about racism in the past. President Trump has meanwhile threatened to boycott the NFL if players decide not to stand for the US anthem as he continues to view kneeling as a sign of disrespect to the flag.
Wyche believes it is important the debate surrounding the flag does not distract from the real cause.
Wyche: "The few sports reporters of colour or columnists or people on TV who had a voice constantly banged their heads on the table saying 'this is why he is doing it', but then you had a significant number of the media who focused on the act itself. It was never 'why'.
"There's a big feeling over here that's 'why are black people protesting or complaining when they can go to school anywhere they want, they can live anywhere they want?'
"People are upset because police officers who are supposed to come help us in tough times are killing unarmed black men.
"These are some of the things that trigger it. I feel the change, there are more people, media members, people in the league, understanding 'why'.
"Because you could not look at the video and feel any other way but sickened."
Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien and Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield are among those to recently say they will kneel for the anthem in 2020.
Small groups of players did follow Kaepernick's lead by kneeling four years ago, only to be met by President Trump encouraging team owners to fire those that protested.
The NFL introduced fines for those that did not stand and policy allowing players who did not want to stand to stay in the locker room for the anthem.
It is anticipated a much higher percentage of players and coaching staff could choose to take a knee when the 2020 season gets underway.
Wyche said: "I think it's a personal choice and that's what Colin Kaepernick said from the jump, 'I am not asking anybody to do this with me, I'm not trying to create a movement, this is a personal decision of mine and that's what I want to do'.
"If Drew Brees wants to stand with his hand over his heart for the national anthem that is his right, his belief and he should very much do so. I stand for the national anthem, but I also understand why others kneel. I feel it.
"But I also feel in my heart that there are certain things I've witnessed where that flag means a lot to people for different reasons.
"I am all for fighting the injustices of police brutality and judicial reform and things like that. I've never had anybody hold that against me. I think it's a personal choice."
"I think if players are restricted by their clubs or owners I think you'll see them speak out."