Super Bowl 2019 kicked off with controversy Sunday night, when the NFL used footage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many viewers called out the league for celebrating civil rights heroes while Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned after protesting racial injustice.
Ahead of the official coin toss, CBS aired a montage of photos and videos featuring King while snippets of the preacher’s most famous speeches played in the background. After the package aired, King’s youngest child, Bernice King, along with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and activist Andrew Young, joined team captains on the field for the official coin toss. King was given the honor of tossing the coin.
Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem at NFL games in 2016 as a way to protest racial injustice and police brutality. Since then, tensions have been high between players who support him and the league, which has actively tried to prevent players from taking a stand.
Last year, the NFL approved a policy requiring players to stand for the national anthem if they are present on the field. It put the policy “on hold” following widespread backlash.
Twitter users were quick to point out the hypocrisy of the league honoring civil rights heroes during the Super Bowl while Kaepernick remains unemployed by the NFL. The former quarterback filed a lawsuit accusing the NFL of working to keep him out of the league.
Celebrities showed solidarity with Kaepernick over the weekend by tweeting their support for the former San Francisco 49ers players. Many wore his jersey and said they would not watch the Super Bowl this year.