The Take a Knee Movement has gone international. This was clearly demonstrated when Berlin’s major league soccer team, Hertha Berlin took a keen before their Bundesliga home game against Schalke last week. Although the stadium wasn’t playing the Star-Spangled Banner, the head coach, the starting line-up, and even the team administrators all took a knee in solidarity with the struggles of the US. Since the German fans were not all clued up on international events, the stadium announcer had to explain to the fans what was going on and why. So, what exactly is the movement doing in Europe and how did it get there?

It turns out that the man responsible for bringing the Take a Knee movement across the pond is Ivory Coast international Salomon Kalou. Solomon and his Hertha teammates were essentially supporting the protests initiated by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. It all started in June 2016 when Kaepernick knelt during the American National Anthem before a pre-season NFL game. His reasons were simply because he could not stand and show pride for a flag or a country that oppresses people of color. From that one act, the Take a Knee campaign was born.

Where it All Started

The actions of Kaepernick kicked off a countrywide movement of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. By September 2017, the hashtag #TakeAKnee was trending on Twitter, with more and more players joining the cause. Athletes across the country took up the cause with the likes of Bruce Maxwell, Stephen Curry, and LeBron James all taking a knee. Celebrities and war veterans have also voiced their support for the moment with Ellen DeGeneres, John Legend and others showing solidarity.

The Take Knee campaign highlighted the faults of a country where oppression is said to be a thing of the past. The sharp focus of the campaign exacerbated an already volatile political climate. The athletes involved in the movement have been accused of disrespecting the American flag and all it represents. In fact, some of the harshest criticism of the movement comes from the president himself. Using Twitter to voice his issues, President Trump has openly called for the suspension of the players in question, even using slurs to refer to so-called troublemakers.

Hertha Berlin and the German Press

Despite all this, the Take a Knee campaign has shown no signs of slowing down. In Germany, Salomon Kalou told the press that he and his fellow teammates took a knee to protest against people who think there is a kind of white supremacy, adding that racism is like terrorism. This was the first time a European team has picked up on the protests. It was a fitting location though, with the team kneeling on the grounds of the Olympiastadion, which was built for the 1936 Olympics under the Nazi Regime.

The Movement Against Oppression

In his interview with the press, Kalou said that taking a knee had nothing to do with disrespecting a flag, but rather that we are all one and we can rise up together. He went on to say that a human heart is far too small to have any place for hatred. The protests by Kalou and his team made international headlines with parts of the German media criticising his action. The press called the movement irrelevant, while others said it was an artificial construct in order to gain an air of importance.

Kalou has said that we cannot deny that this kind of behavior exists. He believes that people should be doing something to show that they are against this type of behavior, and that is exactly what he and his teammates have done. Whatever his reason, Kalou has taken the message to Europe. It is just a matter of time before more international soccer teams and other European athletes take up the cause.


Featured image via Hertha Berlin//Twitter