Kate Upton calls NFL players kneeling in anti-racism protest on 9/11 'horrific'

Model is accused of woefully missing the point with post claiming everyone in the US is 'truly blessed' against a backdrop of police brutality and growing racial tensions

Heather Saul
Tuesday 13 September 2016 11:49 BST

Kate Upton has prompted outrage after branding the decision by NFL players to kneel instead of stand during the national anthem in protest against racial injustice in the US “unacceptable”.

The Sports Illustrated model was accused of woefully missing the point by suggesting this form of protest was un-American and claiming everyone in the US, regardless of race or gender, is “truly blessed”.

Colin Kaepernick shone a spotlight on endemic racism in America when he refused to stand for the national anthem ahead of a game in August. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback said he would not “stand and show pride” for a country that oppresses people of colour.

“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way," he told journalists after the game. "There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

His protest was emulated by a number of athletes who also refused to stand during the national anthem. Kaepernick continued this demonstration on Monday with his team-mate Eric Reidn while Antoine Bethea and Eli Harold raised their fists in the air.

Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest during the national anthem prior to playing the Los Angeles Rams in their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on September 12
Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest during the national anthem prior to playing the Los Angeles Rams in their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on September 12 (Getty Images)

Kaepernick’s protests have engendered a dialogue about racism in America amid growing racial tensions and instances of police brutality. The Black Lives Matter movement launched in 2013 continues to gain momentum and has garnered support from some of the most high-profile artists in the world after fatal shootings of black citizens by police.

But Upton said players should be “proud to be American, especially on 9/11 when we should support each other”.

The flurry of replies were quick to highlight the wider issue surrounding their demonstration which Upton appeared to have neglected. "Kate, if you see this as being un-American then you do not understand this country at all," wrote one. "They are kneeling because they ARE American. They are black Americans that have to face racism on a daily basis. Racism does not sleep. Police brutality does not stop because it is 9/11.”

Upton defended her stance amid a growing backlash, condemning sitting or kneeling down during a rendition of the national anthem as a "disgrace" to veterans and those still serving in the military.

In a post on Instagram showing four team members of the Miami Dolphins kneeling, she also claimed President Obama’s election to the White House was evidence of the opportunities afforded to all American citizens, regardless of their race.

"In my opinion, the national anthem is a symbolic song about our country. It represents honoring the many brave men and women who sacrifice and have sacrificed their lives each and every single day to protect our freedom," she wrote.

“Sitting down during the national anthem on 11 September 11 is even more horrific. Protest all you want and use social media all you want. However, during the nearly two minutes when that song is playing, I believe everyone should put their hands on their heart and be proud of our country for we are all truly blessed. Recent history has shown that it is a place where anyone no matter what race or gender has the potential to become President of the United States. We live in the most special place in the world and should be thankful.

“After the song is over, I would encourage everyone to please use the podium they have, stand up for their beliefs, and make America a better place. The rebuilding of battery park and the freedom tower demonstrates that amazing things can be done in this country when we work together towards a common goal. It is a shame how quickly we have forgotten this as a society. Today we are more divided then ever before. I could never imagine multiple people sitting down during the national anthem on the September 11th anniversary. The lessons of 911 should teach us that if we come together, the world can be a better and more peaceful place #neverforget."

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