You probably already know all the particulars of this story, but just to recap: Last year, San Francisco 49ers quarterpack Colin Kaepernick, in protest of racist police violence and general systemic American racism, started taking a knee as the National Anthem was sung before NFL games. Kaepernick was pilloried for his decision, and he’s effectively been blackballed from the NFL, but some players followed suit. This past weekend, at a rally in Alabama, Donald Trump said that players should lose their job for protesting. As ABC reports, players in the league responded en masse. At Sunday’s football games, as ABC News reports, more than 200 players kneeled during the anthem, while others raised a fist or stood with arms linked, effectively turning a protest about racism into a protest about Donald Trump. And last night, a few prominent musicians followed suit.
Last night was the Concert For Charlottesville, an enormous free concert in the small Southern city that was the site of white-supremacist violence and murder last night. Local hero Dave Matthews organized an all-star free concert and solicited donations for various associated charities. (I was there, and I’ll have more on it later today.) At the end of the night, surprise guest Stevie Wonder came out and sang a few songs with the Dave Matthews Band. Wonder, along with his son, had taken the knee in solidarity with Kaepernick and the other NFL players at New York’s Global Citizen Festival the night before. At last night’s show, he did the same thing, and Matthews kneeled along with him. With Matthews kneeling next to him, Wonder said, “I take a knee for America and two knees in prayer for our world. Amen.”
Earlier in the show, Pharrell Williams, who was performing with the Roots behind him, did something similar. Dropping to both knees between songs, Pharrell, a Virginia native, said, “I’m in Virginia right now. I’m home. Can’t nobody can tell me what to do if I wanted to get on my knees right now. If I wanted to get on my knees right now for the people of my city, for the people of my state. That’s what that flag is for.” Check out the video below, via Vulture; it’s at the 11:34 mark.
And Billboard reports that Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder did the same thing while performing solo at Tennessee’s Pilgrimage Festival. This was after he called out Trump for his nuclear brinksmanship with North Korea, telling the crowd that it would only take a North Korean missile 30 minutes to reach his Seattle hometown and wondering what he’d do in that last half-hour with his wife and children: “What would you do? You’d scream at the sky and go, ‘What the fuck? How could this fucking happen? But at that point, that’s not gonna do any good whatsoever.”
It’s worth mentioning, I supposed, that none of these artists were kneeling while the actual National Anthem was playing. Still, it was a gesture, and I expect that we’ll see more like it.
UPDATE 2: Roger Waters also took a knee.
— Roger Waters (@rogerwaters) September 25, 2017