The cover of the January 15 issue of The New Yorker depicts Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. kneeling on the sidelines between two football players—and former division rivals*—Michael Bennett and Colin Kaepernick. The image, “In Creative Battle” by Mark Ulriksen, depicts a sideline demonstration reminiscent of NFL players’ protests meant to bring attention to police aggression against black men and boys and society’s racial injustice. Both Bennett and Kaepernick have been outspoken critics of racial injustice in America and have sought to raise awareness through their civic engagement and philanthropy.
Ulriksen’s image suggests that—were he alive—Dr. King would stand, or, as the case may be, kneel, in solidarity with Bennett and Kaepernick. Like the nonviolent protests of the 1950s and 1960s, in which black men, women, and children sat at counters, on public buses, in restaurant booths, and classrooms where they were not permitted by law, their quiet act on stadium sidelines proved powerfully symbolic.