Anthony Ervin Kneels for National Anthem at Raia Rapida

As the number of athletes kneeling for the national anthem across the sports world increases, Anthony Ervin is a particularly intriguing one to have brought swimming squarely into the debate.

Colin Kaepernick first sat for the anthem during NFL preseason games in early August of 2016, but after speaking with former NFL long-snapper and US Army Green Beret Nate Boyer, switched to kneeling. He first knelt in a regular-season game on August 28th, 2016, then met with the media and cited as his motive ongoing issues regarding police brutality and the oppression of people of color in the United States. He continued to kneel through the 2016-2017 NFL season, with a few other athletes following suit.

Though Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers in March and was never re-signed (in fact, he filed a collusion report against every NFL team today), his movement regained momentum in September when President Trump suggested that players who protest during anthem are un-American and should be fired. Since those comments, athletes from a number of professional sports have decided to kneel.

The action has turned into a national debate over the athletes’ right to peacefully protest, with critics saying that the action is disrespectful to members of the military.

Ervin knelt at Sunday’s 2017 Raia Rapida meet in Brazil, where he anchored Team USA’s mixed 200 medley relay.

Anthony, 36, is the son of Jack Ervin, an American, black Vietnam veteran who opted to join the Marines instead of do jail time after he was wrongly implicated in an act of vandalism, according to Ervin’s autobiography Chasing Water. His mother, Sherry, is of Jewish heritage and is white.

Additionally, his mixed-race ancestor Shadrach Battles fought in numerous Revolutionary War battles, and his great-great-great grandfather William Slaughter fought for the Union in the Civil War.

Ervin was the first black American swimmer to win swimming gold with the 50 free in 2000. Reflecting on his win in Sydney, Ervin told his autobiography co-author Constantine Markides, “I didn’t know a thing about what it was like to be part of the black experience … But now I do. It’s like winning gold and having a bunch of old white people ask you what it’s like to be black. That’s my black experience.”

His demonstration comes about three weeks after Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to kneel. Notably, Maxwell was born in Germany while his father was stationed there with the Army.

Ervin has historically been outspoken in regard to political and social causes, once going as far as to auction off his gold medal on eBay for the benefit of the Tsunami Relief Fund after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. More recently, he made his stance known after the “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville in August:

As of publishing, Ervin hasn’t made a statement regarding his decision to kneel.


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Caeleb Dressel WILL get 7 golds in Tokyo

I don’t understand this stupidity going on.

Swimmer Thieroff

Yeah, saying Caeleb Dressel will get seven golds in the 2020 olympics is pretty stupid… I say six, max.


Or five.

crooked donald

Really depends on how Boomer Phelps progresses.


Absolutely 🙂

Dressel will get 8 golds

He just won seven, you are saying he won’t get better before Tokyo

Hater of Swimvortex

We don’t have mixed freestyle relay in Tokyo.


But, there is a mixed medley relay.

Gator fan

50 free 100 free 200 free 100 fly and all the relays, its bold but not impossible.


Caeleb will not make the team in the 200 individually and maybe not for the relay either


have to agree with this…I think he’s got a strong chance in making the relay if he wants to, but honestly, his better chance in a 200 would come with the IM if he starts to focus on it some and with Lochte back in Gainesville, he’d have a solid training partner for it.


You also use a book as a reason for why it’s wrong for some people to love other people


One third of individuals voted up on this comment. Trumps approval ratings are also one third of Americans. At least now we have a way of tracking the idiots on this message board


Educate them.

Tea rex

Sigh – only 12 hours to prove Godwin’s Law. I wish I were surprised.


But when Trump wants to know how each of you votes and your voting history – you are all red-white-and-blue, huh?


An audit of the voting system is necessary, if not by the current administration then somebody. Having over 100% participation in some districts should be a red flag to even you.

Sir Swimsalot

I honestly don’t trust polls very much. They can be so biased, especially now since the media on BOTH asides has become increasingly polarized. For instance, Hillary’s chances of winning. Many were in the 70’s, 80’s, even 90 percent chance.


Glad to see Ervin protesting police brutality and systemic racism, especially in a sport like swimming which lacks diversity.


Colin K liked Castro who jailed and killed people. This is why Cubans came to the US like Pablo Morales parents.. Colin K also liked the cop killer back in the 1970’s that spent her time in Cuba, While cops are not perfect,.the most anti-Cop movement in the US Antifa likes communist leaders like Joseph Stalin, Mao, and so forth. On the Antifa website of Austin Texas there is praise for comrade Stalin. I was shocked that young people are unaware of what Stalin did. Read the Gulag Archipelago by Alexander S. You may think me too conservative but I grew up in the 1970’s when the weathermen underground were praising Mao and plotting to killed cops and blow up… Read more »


A lot of the misconceptions about communism (I.e communism killed 100 million people, Stalin’s regime was genocidal etc.) stem from western propaganda such as the black book of communism to support and uphold a capitalism which is what systematic racism ultimately stems from


What do you know about communism….


Hate to tell ya buddy, but communism doesn’t work. Give me one example of a truly communist country (i.e. not china) that has a thriving economy AND a high standard of living.


Even so, China has free market districts, so thats partly why does well economically.


Communism never existed – that is what they used to scare you with; Communists were original BLM. 🙂
Free market socialism is being practiced successfully in many countries, so of them where people live much happier than people in the USA. “Communist” tried government managed socialism and that did not work. China works because it is an undemocratic free market socialism and government was smart to realize they have to let people make money to preserve their undemocratic system. But, be afraid, be very afraid of China future domination.


As if u could give me a true capitalist country that brings prosperity to its people without being a colonizer first.


Have you lived under communist regime? Have you worked in the communist run factory? I did. You can always try to ask North Korean to let you in if you like it so much…


This narrative is false. In reality, a randomly selected black man is overwhelmingly unlikely to be victim of police violence — and though white men experience such violence even less often, the disparity is consistent with the racial gap in violent crime, suggesting that the role of racial bias is small. The media’s acceptance of the false narrative poisons the relations between law enforcement and black communities throughout the country and results in violent protests that destroy property and sometimes even claim lives. Perhaps even more importantly, the narrative distracts from far more serious problems that black Americans face.


Protesting the racial disparities of police brutalities has zero to do with communism. I think your comment betrays the partisan nature of US politics where battle lines have been drawn and people aren’t willing to see the ‘other’ side with any empathy. The wider question I have is that if it’s not ‘your’ type of people – you just have no reason to care if they are brutalised.

Steve Nolan

You do know that the US has by far the highest prison population in the world, right? And that we’re like, making them into modern day slaves while in jail?

They were the Weather Underground (had plenty of women.). And also made sure no one were in those buildings they were blowing up. (Until they blowed themselves up. There were people in that building.)


If by “highest prison population” you mean those under the influence of prohibited substances, you may be correct. As far as being slaves, you devalue the term “slave” by using it to label those incarcerated with libraries, workout equipment, 3 hots and a cot, etc. Can’t tell if you’re supportive of the Weather Undeground’s terroristic tactics on the basis that they set off explosives when a building was empty.

Steve Nolan

No, literally highest prison population. Link:

Highest in both total number and rate. So, in this case, USA IS #1!!!!

And blowing up empty buildings isn’t the worst thing you could do, no. You see it in coverage of the “riots” over police brutality – news will report on broken windows like it’s something that matters. It’s property. We can get new windows. Focusing on people over property would do everyone a lot of good.


Look up “literally” – it does not mean what you think it means. I think what you meant to say is that the US has the largest number of prisoners – which differs from “highest prison population” – literally.

Steve Nolan

Wait, what? We have the most prisoners. The number of prisoners we have is the highest number. Both in total numbers and as a ratio of population.

I have no idea what kind of semantic argument you’re trying to make and I’m this place’s most pedantic commenter.


Well, if you don’t understand the semantics of your own points – even when pointed out to you – you may want to step away from the keyboard.


So, by your rationale, anything short of “the worst thing you can do” gets a green light? How positively relativistic of you! Not sure that sets a clear standard for society though as one man’s “worst thing” is another woman’s “Oh, I can think of worse!”


The prison problem is an interesting one; Despite all the data, from all over the world, US lawmakers seem intent on pretending to the American people that a system based on punishment is better than one based on rehabilitation. Re-offending is the biggest issue; Once people are into the US prison system, they’ll end up back there as there is no rehabilitative element.

Steve Nolan

We’re a very vindictive nation. People don’t “deserve” certain things, prisoners don’t “deserve” rights. It’s a bummer.

It’d be nice if the data was persuasive, but even in the rare case most people see it, it’s not.

Ex Quaker

The Gulag Archipelago singlehandedly changed my views of good & evil and political systems.


So don’t generalize cops but generalize people who take a knee


No matter what u believe, you have to admit that Cubans r faring lot better during hurricane seasons like poor folks in places such as PR or New Orleans.

Identity Politics

Good point! The sport of swimming should match the diversity found in basketball. Hopefully we will see NBA players kneeling this year to put a spotlight on this injustice.


What injustice? Give me some examples.

Sir Swimsalot

Why is diversity so important? I honestly don’t get it. I mean, why care about the race of those involved? Just see each other as we are, 100% human beings and let it end there.


You, Sir, shall be taken out and flogged for not recognizing the inherent value in diversity! How dare you ignore what the numbers clearly show!! Diversity of ideas can ONLY be achieved by having one from every group and cannot be achieved by other means. The preceding sentences being delivered with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Who M I

Disrespectful to the men and women who defend this great country. If you have a problem with injustice find another platform to get your message across. Also, why “should” swimming mirror the NBA? Because it’s more than 75% black? Whoever wants to swim in this country can, there’s no one stopping them because of their race.

Dan D.

Swimming is a meritocracy without racial quotas. Deal with it.
As for “systemic racism,” note that saying there’s systemic racism out somewhere in the ether without pointing to any specific examples does nothing. Also note that inequality ≠ inequity


Just a note, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, inequity is a synonym of inequality. In other words the two are not mutually exclusive as you imply.

Dan D.

I’m not implying that they’re mutually exclusive.


I do not think you really wanted to claim mutual exclusivity, Catch22. I think you meant to argue that the words are more synonymous than Dan D. asserted.


Swimming is a high-income sport… and there is not much of a Help from goverment usually to help low-income people swim, that is easily reflected on the Number of Drownings worldwide.. No one is saying anything about Quotas.. People is talking about opportunity.. so when a low income black/latino neighborhood who lacks good schools, transport system, jobs and recreation facilities (Aside a broken Soccer or Basketball court), and cops shooting people for no reason, women having the same salary as men, no discrimination on job search and much more we may stop talking about system racism

Dan D.

Yeah, you clearly have no clue what I was talking about or even what you’re talking about.



Sir Swimsalot

It’s been over 50 years since the war on poverty began. $22,000,000,000,000 has been spent on it, so yeah the government has tried a lot to stop poverty. It’s failed


Wait – Let me get this straight: You are arguing that GOVERNMENT should pay (i.e. taxpayers pay) for people to learn to swim?!?!? That is as much of a big-government argument as I think I have seen. “Government owes me swimming lessons!”? Also, you realize that the term “racism” EX-cludes discrimination on the basis of gender, right? Race is one personal characteristic. Gender is a wholly different concept – as are national origin, height, weight, etc.

Good ol\' Master

Meritocracy… Yeah right.
Many opportunities and great pools for inner city and ghetto kids.


Meritocracy – in the sense that one’s success is a function of how quickly you swim your event (an objective measure) and that results are not based on subjective concepts – like “fairness” or “he deserves.” You earn what your performance merits.


Oh, I guess the NFL has a lack of diversity since a very large majority of the players are black. People tout “diversity” only when white people are in the majority. Ya’ll lets get this racist crap outta here. We are all 100% human beings.

Bay swimmer

Freedom of speech:)?

Cowardly Actions of Nobody

Yep… Tony has the freedom to publicly dishonor the men and women of both the armed service, first responders and the police who made it possible for him to take a kneel to the flag and anthem that made this action possible. Myself and others also have the freedom to dislike Tony and his supporters for his selfish, disrespectful and ignorant actions. God bless America and our countries real heros who have sacrificed more in one day than what this very small man has done in an entire life time. Hopefully Tony will call an NFL Player if he ever needs help.

ice age swimmer

I don’t know how people make that leap from protesting specific acts of brutality towards people of color, to hating the military, first responders and all police. That is absurd. The world isn’t black and white. If you had a dysfunctional family, with one member brutalizing the other members, you would (hopefully) bring it to light and get help trying to heal it. It sure wouldn’t mean you hated your whole family, or didn’t appreciate the positive things that your family has done for you. We are a family, with both wonderful and terrible things going on. Let’s try to heal the bad parts. I applaud Tony and CK for using free speech to try to improve a problem, even… Read more »


Those people who make that leap tend to also be staunch 2nd amendment supports who fully intend on shooting police and military if they were to come for “mah gunz”


If you chose to protest just one family member’s actions during a time specifically established to honor your entire family, then you WOULD be specifically withholding your participation in a time to honor the entire family in order to protest just one family member. You would, in effect, be communicating that “Until I can support all of the actions of all of my family members, I refuse to take part in honoring any of them.” That, my friend, is what some might call a tantrum.

Swimmer Thieroff

No, if they chose to protest the actions of an individual family member (as BLM has repeatedly done in our collective metaphor) they get called unpatriotic terrorists intent on killing police and raping white babies. If you’re gonna claim that there’s a proper venue to protest police brutality and racial inequality then at least let people have that venue, you [email protected]#king hypocrite.


Well, that escalated quickly! Ah, yes – ad hominem attacks. The last bastion of the emotional. If I understand your position, the only way and time for athletes to express their opposition to something and/or support for something else is to take a knee during the 4 minutes the anthem is playing at a sporting event? While everyone else has social media, events, protests, rallies, Facebook, Twitter, the conventional media, . . . as communication outlets? Well, if your goal was to ensure that I could have response to your position, you succeeded – I have no idea where to even begin responding. I guess that if I was you, this would be the place for me to use foul… Read more »


No one endorses inappropriate police violence. In the interest of factual perspective, though, keep in mind that young Black men comprise about 2-3% of the population yet they commit over 50% of all murders. Is it any wonder that cops are hypersensitive when confronting them? There’s plenty of blame all around. As to Ervin, I was very disappointed to see his action; my opinion of him has gone down a lot because of it.


While you do have the freedom to take offense to someone kneeling before the flag, Tony isn’t kneeling to dishonor the armed service, first responders, and the police. He is kneeling to protest the brutality towards people of color that exists in this country. Until you walk in someone else’s shoes, then maybe your judgement of him is just that—judgement.


Well, seeing as how the article notes that he has not commented on his actions, I don’t know how you can discern what his motivation is. When you choose to not take part in the established ceremony intended to honor those who have served and died for you and your country, you ARE ignoring their sacrifice and dishonoring them and the sacrifices they made. I’ll let the irony in your judgmental judging comment pass, for now.

Swimming Fan

You are correct. Kneeling is a nonverbal action so we have no idea what he was protesting. Ervin has the right to express himself. Colin K found that actions and words have consequences and that others are similarly free to express themselves. A large number of people do find Ervin’s actions offensive and undoubtedly he knows that; yet, he chooses to offend those people anyway. Makes you wonder how effective a nonverbal protest that offends a lot of people can be. It doesn’t appear to accomplish much other than to a large number of people mad.

Don Megerle



The troops and police are their to enforce what the flag means. It’s their, ya know, jobs to ensure that we can express ourselves in that way. Cowardice is also a first ammendmant right that it seems you have no problem excercising.


Yes he does.


As a veteran: it has been clear from the outset that this is about police brutality against minorities. Those kneeling for the anthem are not doing so to dishonor any servicemembers. Further, he still has his hand over his heart. In sports like football and soccer, it’s customary to take a knee when someone gets injured. The division we have seen over the deaths of Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, and others is a clear indication that this country is not well. By kneeling and keeping his hand over his heart, I think Ervin is showing great compassion and respect not just for the black community, but for America as a whole. In summary, stop using our service as a political… Read more »


Well said. Thank you. Brave people who stand up for what is right and to stop injustice will get hammered down. Brave people withstand the hammer blows to save humanity, justice, equality, rule of law, and democracy FOR ALL OTHERS. It is not easy to stand up, stand out, blow the whistle, speak up, etc.

Joel Lin

Perfectly stated. Thank you.


Perfectly stated. Thank you for your service and your understanding of the issues.

Science Geek

Seriously? He has his hand over his heart and is looking at the flag. A proper respectful protest in my book.


All except for the disrespect, part you mean?


Looks like he took down the tweet?

crooked donald

I heard it was an amendment or something.


Except it’s not really an “expression” of speech. It’s an exercise to bring attention to something that I won’t spell out here because the swim community doesn’t even care about kids drowning all that much so there’s no way they care about those other causes.


An “expression” is just that: in your words, “an exercise to bring attention to something.”


I work at a place that gave out free lessons to the tune of 100 during drowning awareness month so

Sir Swimsalot

I personally think it is wrong to kneel, but I know he has the freedom to do so. I’ve thought about this issue quite a bit. When standing for the anthem and the flag, you are pledging allegiance to it, even though this country has many problems. Aren’t you, by pledging allegiance, also committing yourself to fix this nation’s problems? It’s like a commitment to the family member. You love that family member, and are committed to him/her, but as relatives we help each other with our problems. I know, not the best analogy, but I hope at least it clarifies my thinking.

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majors in Media Studies and American Studies at Claremont McKenna College. When she's not writing about swimming or baseball, you can probably find her listening to a podcast or in a pool ... and/or watching Seinfeld, which she just realized is funny.

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