SI’s Sports Illustrated writer defends Michael Phelps over ‘kneeling’ gesture

Editor’s note: Scroll down for full interview It has been a few weeks since Michael Phelps took a knee in an image posted on Twitter following the game-winning goal from then-rookie Tommaso D’Orsogna. While…

SI's Sports Illustrated writer defends Michael Phelps over 'kneeling' gesture

Editor’s note: Scroll down for full interview

It has been a few weeks since Michael Phelps took a knee in an image posted on Twitter following the game-winning goal from then-rookie Tommaso D’Orsogna. While most are applauding the gesture as a sign of protest, Sports Illustrated’s Jess Carter is having none of it.

“We’re athletes. We have the right to protest on the playing field, in the locker room, in public,” Carter told Sports Illustrated’s editor-in-chief Terry McDonell and news editor Kristi Turnquist. “But that’s not what it’s about in this case. I think people realize Michael Phelps is a superstar athlete. He gets to do whatever he wants. He does everything he wants. He has a lot of money. He makes a lot of decisions. But we’re not there. We’re athletes. We have zero right to do that.”

In fact, taking a knee has actually been a long time coming for Carter. She was named by SI as “Most Likely to Take a Knee Before It’s Too Late” in 2006. After being hospitalized for a concussion in 2008, Carter began “exploring her options” with pro teammates and family, turning to the Internet and social media for ideas, a process that lasted until 2013.

“I asked my Twitter followers, ‘What should I do?’ ” Carter said. “Then I started taking notes on the Internet, the blogosphere, Reddit. I started looking at YouTube videos, memes, Twitters, Instagrams, pushing them out to the web, reading what people were saying about them. But there were no guarantees I’d have any of this work. I would often search the hashtag #KneelingSportswoman, but there was nothing. I would tweet about it, but no one would respond. So I would just do this on my own.”

By 2014, Carter was taking the initiative to ask her friends and teammates on social media about it as well.

“I started asking, ‘Are you going to join me? Are you supportive of me?’ ” Carter said. “The majority of them were saying yes. After that, I started a group on Facebook called #KneedingGodOnTheCourt, and it just grew from there.”

Using the comments on her video clips, Carter found her brother, Eric, and asked for help — and support. After selling the rights to his band, Street Drum Corps, in the ensuing year and a half, Carter and Eric went into business together, providing microphones, saxophones, drums and other resources needed to create recording groups, like Tossin’ & Turning, a D.C.-based marching-band fan club.

“I saw Michael becoming the face of this movement, but I knew it was my duty to do something about it and offer my support and help in any way I could,” Eric Carter said. “I began suggesting it to people. He was on Twitter and mentioned my work. That’s when my brother began to really work at this. We had to go through all the discussions and controversy. But we came up with a plan.”

ESPNCleveland.com viewers can read the full interview here.

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