The timing of Mark Ulriksen’s illustration for this week’s cover of The New Yorker is so appropriate.
The image depicts Martin Luther King Jr. interlocking arms with Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett and ex-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as he takes a knee between them.
HuffPost reported that the artist was inspired by a question: “I asked myself, 'What would King be doing if he were around today?'”
That’s certainly something relevant to ponder, considering Martin Luther King Jr. Day is swiftly approaching on Jan. 15. Ulriksen gave The New Yorker a detailed explanation of the cover art titled “In Creative Battle.”
“This is 49er country, and my mom and I have been going back and forth — she’s upset that players have brought politics into sports, but I say, 'How would you feel if you had to show up at work every day and salute a country that treats black people like second-class citizens?' I’m glad that Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett are making it political," Ulriksen said. "I’m sure that if King were around today, he’d be disappointed at the slow pace of progress: two steps forward, 20 steps back. Or 10 yards back, as the metaphor may be.”
Kaepernick, the pioneer of taking a knee during the national anthem at NFL games, remained unsigned almost a year after becoming a free agent in March 2017. He filed a grievance in October 2017 accusing football team owners of collusion, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell insisted that Kaepernick isn’t being blackballed.
However, a recent New York Daily News report compared Kaepernick's stats with San Francisco 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo and concluded that he is, indeed, being blackballed.
Kaepernick's suspicions about the NFL plotting against him to prevent him from taking a knee on the football field could actually be true.
The purpose of his national anthem protests can’t be stressed enough. It is a fight to bring awareness to police brutality against people of color in America, and unfortunately, Bennet was subjected to exactly what Kaepernick has been taking a stand against. Last year, Bennett accused two police officers of racial profiling and using excessive force against him during a trip to Las Vegas.
Ulriksen is right for asking himself what King would do if he were around and concluding that he would be supporting the #TakeAKnee movement. King fought for the very same social justice Kaepernick is fighting for until his last breath.