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The Art of Taking a Knee: Colin Kaepernick Edition

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

Welcome to a brand new Literary Hub podcast, fiction/non/fiction. Hosted by Whitney Terrell and V.V. Ganeshananthan, fiction/non/fiction interprets current events through the lens of literature, and features conversations with writers of all stripes, from novelists and poets to journalists and essayists.

In the first episode of fiction/non/fiction, Whitney and V.V. talk to Brit Bennett and Matt Gallagher about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem in protest of institutional racism and police violence.


Matt Gallagher

“It’s so much easier to hear the anthem and to look touched and to yell ‘Merica!’ than it is to consider that American ideals are much more than a song or a piece of cloth.”

“You’re going to find vets that feel every which way about this issue . . . make your case that everyone should be standing for the anthem but leave us out of it. We’re not a monolith for your shitty logic.”

Brit Bennett

“The idea that these NFL players who are literally risking their lives and their physical health every time they step on the field—and are making money for billionaire owners—are ungrateful is really crazy. To me it speaks to this larger belief that white people earn the things that they have but black people are just given it.”

“Everything is metaphor and symbol now and we can’t agree on what those metaphors and symbols mean.”

Whitney Terrell

“The anthem is the people’s song. Reacting to and messing around with the anthem is an assertion of citizenship . . . the kneeling is in that tradition of improvisation, mutation, and change.”

“I don’t think people understand how gutsy it was for [Kaepernick] to stick out from the group in that way.”

V.V. Ganeshananthan

“I don’t want the issue of police brutality to be submerged. I’m concerned that it’s going to remain submerged so I hope that someone—perhaps Colin Kaepernick, perhaps one of his allies—finds a way to resurface that issue.”

“The idea ‘Can a rich man suffer from racism’ still seems to be a concept that’s beyond the grasp of most white Americans.”


Readings for this week’s episode

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain * Youngblood, by Matt Gallagher * “My Body, My Weapon, My Shame,” by Elwood Reid * The Mothers by Brit Bennett

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