What Does ‘Take a Knee’ Mean in Sports?

In light of recent events, many people are wondering what the phrase “take a knee” means in the context of sports. Here’s a look at the origins of the phrase and what it has come to mean in today’s world.

Checkout this video:


In recent years, the phrase “take a knee” has become synonymous with protesting police brutality and racial inequality. The phrase was popularized by then-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016, when he began kneeling during the national anthem to raise awareness of those issues.

Since then, other athletes have also chosen to take a knee during the anthem or other pre-game ceremonies, including women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe and NBA player LeBron James. Taking a knee has also been adopted as a form of protest by groups outside of the sports world, such as students and teachers.

The act of taking a knee is often seen as a respectful way to protest, since it does not involve disrupting something like a speech or interrupting someone who is speaking. It is also seen as a way to peacefully demonstrate against injustice.

Critics of taking a knee argue that it is disrespectful to the flag or to the military, but those who do it say that they are exercising their right to peaceful protest.

The Meaning of “Take a Knee”

“Take a knee” is a saying that is often used in sports. It means to kneel down on one knee, usually in order to show respect or to signal that someone is about to do something important. The phrase can also be used more broadly to mean to stop what you’re doing and pay attention to something else.

In Sports

The phrase “take a knee” has been thrust into the national spotlight in recent years as a way for athletes to protest racial injustice. The practice of taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem before sporting events began in 2016 with then-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Since then, numerous other athletes have joined in the protests, which have come under fire from President Donald Trump and other critics.

While the debate over taking a knee continues, the phrase has taken on a life of its own beyond just sports. “Take a knee” is now being used as a rallying cry by activists across the country who are fighting for social change on a variety of issues.

So what does “take a knee” mean? The answer is both simple and complicated.

On one level, taking a knee is simply a way of refusing to stand. It’s an act of protest that is meant to draw attention to an issue or problem. But there’s also a deeper meaning behind taking a knee that speaks to the history of racial oppression in America.

For many black Americans, taking a knee is seen as a symbolic way of highlighting the systemic racism that still exists in this country. It’s also seen as a way of honoring those who have fought and died for civil rights.

So while “take a knee” may just be two words, they are loaded with meaning and history. For those involved in the protests, taking a knee is much more than just an act of defiance; it’s a powerful statement about the need for justice and equality for all people.

In the Military

The military Origins of “taking a knee” actually has nothing to do with protesting. It is a show of respect. When someone of high rank enters a room, soldiers are ordered to “parade rest.” This means they stand at attention, but with one foot in front of the other and their weight shifted to their back leg, resting their hands behind their back.

To “take a knee” is simply to lower yourself from parade rest into a normal standing position. You might do this if the superior officer leaves the room and you are no longer required to be at attention. Alternatively, you might take a knee if the superior officer wants everyone to be lower than him or her, such as when he or she is addressing the troops.

The Use of “Take a Knee” in Sports

“Take a knee” is a phrase that is commonly used in sports. It is typically used when an athlete wants to take a break or when a coach wants to talk to a player. It can also be used as a way to show respect for someone or something.

In the NFL

In the NFL, take a knee refers to a strategy employed by some players to protest racial inequality and police brutality. The players kneel during the playing of the national anthem as a way to call attention to the issue. The gesture has been criticized by some people who see it as disrespectful to the flag and the military, but others see it as a powerful form of peaceful protest.

In Other Sports

The use of “take a knee” in sports is not limited to football. Players in other sports have also used the gesture to protest social injustice.

In 2016, U.S. women’s national soccer team star Megan Rapinoe took a knee during the national anthem before a game against Thailand in support of then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality and racial inequality.

Rapinoe later explained her actions in an interview with American Soccer Now:

“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties,” she said. “It was important to me to show solidarity with Kaepernick and people that are experiencing that kind of oppression.”

In 2017, multiple Major League Baseball players, including Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell, took a knee during the national anthem to protest President Donald Trump’s comments about NFL players who had been kneeling.

More recently, in September 2019, WNBA players from multiple teams purposely sat or took a knee for the national anthem before games to bring attention to the shooting of Atatiana Jefferson by a police officer in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Controversy Surrounding “Take a Knee”

In sports, “taking a knee” typically refers to a player voluntarily sitting out of a game or play in order to protest against something. The controversy surrounding “take a knee” began when Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL quarterback, took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice. Since then, the meaning of “take a knee” has been hotly debated.

In the NFL

In the National Football League, players have been “taking a knee” during the playing of the national anthem before games as a way to protest police brutality and racial inequality. The practice began in 2016 when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem to protest the deaths of African Americans at the hands of police. Since then, other players have joined in the protests, and the issue has become a lightning rod for political debate.

The protests have drawn criticism from some who see them as disrespectful to the flag and to those who have served in the military. President Donald Trump has been a vocal critic of the protesters, and he has called on NFL owners to fire any player who kneels during the anthem.

Some NFL players have responded to Trump’s criticism by kneeling during the anthem before games, while others have linked arms in solidarity with those who are protesting. The issue came to a head in September 2017 when Trump said that any player who kneels during the anthem is a “son of a bitch” and should be fired.

The NFL has said that it will not punish players for kneeling during the anthem, but it has urged them to stand out of respect for those who have served in the military. In May 2018, NFL owners approved a new rule that requires all players to stand for the anthem if they are on the field, but gives them the option to stay in the locker room if they prefer not to stand. The rule change was met with criticism from some players and fans, who see it as an infringement on players’ rights to protest.

In Other Sports

“Taking a knee” has also become a symbol of protest in other sports beyond football in recent years. NBA players have taken a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality, and WNBA players did the same to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2017, U.S. Soccer added a rule requiring players “to stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems at any event in which the federation is represented.” But after it was revealed that this rule was implemented specifically to prevent kneel-downs, U.S. Soccer quickly backtracked and said it would repeal the regulation. Taking a knee has also been used as a form of protest in tennis, golf, and even motorsports.


The phrase ‘take a knee’ has been adopted by many athletes as a way to protest against racial injustice and police brutality. The act of taking a knee during the national anthem was first started by former NFL player Colin Kaepernick as a way to raise awareness of these issues. Many other athletes have since joined in on the protest, including members of the Women’s National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer. The phrase has also been used by non-athletes as a way to show solidarity with those who are protesting.

Similar Posts