Sports Illustrated's Michael McKnight has written a 4,200-word feature story on the Miami Dolphins' Robert Quinn, the face of Thursday night's NFL protests after a photo of him standing with raised fist was widely circulated by media. Quinn is portrayed as a charitable man who wants to unite America by protesting the national anthem. Quinn says he wants the finger pointing to stop, yet tears down the nation.
With free agent protesters Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid currently out of football, McKnight says, Quinn is "the steadiest presence" among NFL protesters. He's "a man, born and raised in what was once the epicenter of the American slave trade, who expresses his dissent while standing." He promises to continue raising his fist and says, “I won’t stop until they get rid of me."
Quinn says, "I don’t know if people really know why I’m protesting. Its meaning starts with—I’m gonna be honest—black power. Let’s protect our own. But at the same time I want to unite America. I would like for everyone to quit finger-pointing about who’s this and who’s that. Let’s all be one people."
The Dolphins' defensive end began his protest nearly two years ago, in a game at Santa Clara, just 10 miles from the statue of disgraced 1968 U.S. Olympic sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith, with the 49ers' Kaepernick and Reid kneeling across the field, as McKnight points out.
Quinn, the divisive "uniter" and opponent of finger pointers, then begins pointing his own finger. Starting with The white police officers who, in recent years, killed African-Americans Alton Sterling, Philando Castile Stephon Clark and Terence Crutcher. The officers were either acquitted or not prosecuted by the authorities who reviewed those cases. McKnight quantifies police-involved killings of African-Americans with numbers unaccompanied by circumstances: 963 in 2016, 987 in 2017 and on pace to exceed 1,000 this year, according to The Washington Post.
Francis Scott Key, the slave owner who once called blacks an “inferior race of people," is targeted by Quinn. McKnight chips in "his protest is his way of saying the red-white-and-blue spectacle preceding every NFL game hides an important lie he is not willing to tolerate, not even for two minutes. It's his answer to anthem writer Francis Scott Key." To which Quinn says:
"My ancestors were brought here [on slave] ships, treated like a fraction of a human, under a flag that was created out of wiping out Native Americans. Today that flag tells Muslims and Mexicans, We don’t want you here. We’re supposed to be America—equal opportunity, equal people—but you look around and it’s not like that.”
President Donald Trump gets a finger in the eye, too: "America elected as its president a man who would call these protesting players sons of bitches and rant that they should be fired," McKnight writes. "Before NFL games Quinn stands against, among other things, the current administration’s immigration policies."
Furthermore, Quinn believes "some of America’s dearest institutions need overhauling. Racism and the quest for personal gain, he says, have become too entwined in this country’s roots. And in the NFL’s, too—from the league’s spotty history regarding player safety to its clumsy responses to player protests to its lopsided hiring practices." Quinn is upset that there are no black-owned teams in the NFL and "Barely any black coaches," despite 77 percent of the players being black. McKnight supports him with this:
"For years, Quinn has heard the establishment tell minorities, We know, just hang in there. But for how much longer? his raised fist asks. How long can we ignore that the American experiment—freedom for all—is either a hoax or it requires far more effort than is currently being expended?"
McKnight excuses Quinn's finger pointing and lists events that "took shape on a time line that would inform and encourage the protests Robert Quinn engages in today." These events happened "back in the day," Quinn said in a classic understatement.
He goes back to 2012 when Trayvon Martin "was gunned down by a Florida neighborhood watch coordinator" (George Zimmerman, who killed him in self defense), to 1955 when the 14-year-old Emmitt Till was lynched by white men and to colonial times when slave-trading ships brought Africans to a South Carolina port near Quinn's hometown. Despite the gains in racial equality since those times the multi-millionaire Quinn still complains that "Not every American is free."