The Phenomenology of Ritual Resistance: Colin Kaepernick as Confucian Sage

Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 20 (1):1-24 (2021)
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In 2016, Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, remained seated during the national anthem in order to protest racial injustice and police brutality against African-Americans. After consulting with National Football League and military veteran Nate Boyer, Kaepernick switched to taking a knee during the anthem for the remainder of the season. Several NFL players and other professional athletes subsequently adopted this gesture. This article brings together complementary Confucian and phenomenological analyses to elucidate the significance of Kaepernick’s gesture, and in the process provide a phenomenological characterization of the connection between the Confucian notions of sagehood and ritual. Kaepernick’s gesture subverts the anthem ritual from within while simultaneously remaining faithful to the ideals it is meant to express. Furthermore, it institutes a new bodily form of patriotic self-expression compatible with both American and Confucian ideals.

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Philip Walsh
Gartner (Research and Advisory Consulting Firm)

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