In 2016, Colin Kaepernick knelt during the National Anthem to protest the racial injustices that permeate the United States. Almost 50 years before Kaepernick’s protest, St. Louis Cardinals linebacker, Dave Meggysey, had a similar idea. In the above clip, Meggysey explains how he refused to place his hand on his heart to make a statement about the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. He also passed a petition around to other players calling for the withdrawal of troops from Southeast Asia. His actions caused quite a stir for both the media and the NFL.
In a 2017 interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Meggysey said, “A columnist wrote a fairly scathing column about me. And there was sign, a big bed sheet that fans hung at the stadium that said, (implying communism) ‘BIG RED THINKS PINK.’”
Meggysey’s National Anthem protest wasn’t his only act of dissent. In 1970, he wrote Out of Their League, a memoir about the dehumanizing aspects of football, from racism to rampant drug abuse. In the clip below, he speaks about some of those dehumanizing aspects, such as reveling in another player’s injury in the name of a good play.
Meggysey then taught courses at Stanford University about football, athletics, and society. He was also hired by the National Football League Players Association as Western Regional Director. He retired in 2007.
In these clips, Meggysey is speaking to at an event in 1974 sponsored by Rising Up Angry, a Chicago-based radical youth organization founded by Michael James in 1969. In total, there are three 20-minute reels of black and white ½” video shot by Kartemquin Films viewable at Media Burn. In these videos, you can see the full spectrum of Meggysey’s politics and how he believed football feeds into toxic masculinity in American culture. . You can watch those clips here.