BY HAILEY BROWN AND ABBIE TUSCHMAN
Sunday has long been a day of rest and relaxation. For many across the United States, it is a time for worship, family and football. The American tradition of watching football is often associated with loved ones gathered around the television set, wearing their prized jerseys and cheering on their favorite team. Recently, the ordinarily unifying activity has become divisive and infused with politics.
In August 2016, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began sitting during the national anthem before San Francisco 49ers’ games. In an interview with NFL Media, Kaepernick explained his motivations as the issues of racism and police brutality in America.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
When his act gained national attention, others were interested in joining the movement. Kaepernick and teammate Eric Reid began kneeling during the anthem in September 2016. Amid current claims that the demonstration shows a lack of regard for the military, Reid discussed their decision to kneel in an article for the New York Times.
“After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former NFL player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest,” Reid wrote. “We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.”
The protest of the national anthem has gained more attention in the past week due to comments from President Donald Trump. On Friday, September 22 at a rally in Huntsville, Ala., Trump expressed his views on football players kneeling during the anthem. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b**** off the field right now. He is fired. He’s fired,’” Trump said. “Total disrespect of our heritage, a total disrespect of everything that we stand for. Everything that we stand for.”
Since the rally, countless Americans have discussed the issue, with “#TakeAKnee” trending on Twitter. On Sunday, numerous NFL players and coaches kneeled, locked arms or raised a fist during the national anthem. The widespread demonstrations and debate have led to the important question, “Is kneeling during the national anthem disrespectful?”
It’s an unusual sight. Several brawny football players kneel on the grass of the sidelines as the familiar notes of the Star Spangled Banner fill the stadium. Others on the field sit, lock arms or stand with hands over their hearts. The national anthem is often viewed as a precursor to an NFL game’s main attractions of interceptions and touchdowns. However, the protests and demonstrations of players during the anthem were the true show on Sunday, September 24.
Among the countless social media posts about the topic, there were those that claimed the spectacle to be disrespectful to the American flag and the members of the military that serve to protect it. On the contrary, the peaceful protest of the national anthem is not a sign of blatant disregard for the opportunities and protections that the land of the free offers. Rather, it is calling attention to the acts within the country that are often overlooked.
When Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem initially gained attention, through both regard and scrutiny, he described his reasons for protest as the continued injustices against people of color in the United States. Taking a knee for the Star Spangled Banner is not out of spite of the admirable facets of America, such as protection by those who risk their lives fighting in the military. The demonstration demands discussion of the tragedy and oppression that is too often glossed over with a “look at the bright side” attitude.
President Trump has called for the NFL players that kneel during the national anthem to be fired due to their disrespect for the country’s heritage. Yet, kneeling was specifically chosen as the position for protests because it emits a sense of respect. In an episode of HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” former NFL long snapper and U.S. Army Green Beret described a conversation he had with Kaepernick on the protest of the anthem.
“We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammates,” Boyer said. “Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect. When we’re on a patrol, you know, and we go into a security halt, we take a knee, and we pull security.”
After President Trump’s diatribe, many football players were more inclined than ever to show their support for those that choose to kneel by taking a knee beside them. An even greater amount of NFL members stood in solidarity with those that knelt. The recognition of the importance of peaceful protest was a marvel of great significance. They may not feel as strongly about or even identify with the stance that Kaepernick and others take, but their display of unity shows mutual reverence for those that use their platform for raising awareness.
On both sides of the topic, there have been complaints that politics should be left out of sports. Arguably, NFL players are not conducting heated debates on tax reform during the third quarter. Individuals with a platform are projecting a voice for those who cannot. In an ideal world, professional athletes would not feel the need to spread a message by kneeling during the national anthem. Just the same, by looking at the news on any scale and from any political perspective, it is evident that this is not an ideal world.
There is widespread disagreement on pinpointing the problems of our society and their causes. Before people cling to their views like shields, America needs to come to a consensus on the existence of injustice in the nation. Refusing to turn a blind eye to acts of inequity is the first step to finding the solution. In Kaepernick’s words, “If we have these conversations, there’s a better understanding of where both sides are coming from.”
Kneeling during the national anthem is not out of disrespect for the nation, the flag or the military. It is out of concern for the country and its citizens that NFL players choose to kneel. Whether one agrees with the movement or not, many can learn from the demand for discussion about uncomfortable topics. Change is happening all around us. It is time to change the way we talk about it.
BY HAILEY BROWN
Recently this seemed to be an issue catching the attention of many, leaving some unmoved and others in fits of passion. “#TakeAKnee” is causing an uproar, and many are taking sides in the debate of whether or not this protest is crossing lines. Kneeling, linking arms and even raising a fist are just a few ways people are protesting during the National Anthem, but why is it that they feel the need? Colin Kaepernick, the instigator of the movement, gave his reasoning of not wanting to stand for the flag of a country that oppresses people of color.
But what does that have to do with the National Anthem?
There is no reason for disrespecting the National Anthem. That being said, in no way should that reasoning be directed towards the country as a whole. Instead using his fame and fortune, he could create a way to stop what it is he’s sitting down for. Kaepernick and other players could create an origination or awareness for the issue, and actually get something done about it. But instead they drew bad attention to it and caused it to be seen as controversial rather than seeing it for what it really is.
The National Anthem does not just represents the people who may oppress people of color or may commit acts that are seen as police brutality. But the many people who are doing things to end them, the many police fighting against police brutality along with the many people who are helping the cause.
The country does not just have one opinion or viewpoint about the message they are trying to send. Many agree with them and are all for finding a way to stop racial bias and police brutality, but do not so much agree with the way they are trying to get it done. They have indeed caused there to be a lot of attention drawn to the cause, but it’s more about the disrespectful ness rather than the actual message.
“We took an oath to defend others rights, which included the freedom to protest so it’s their right to protest,” Naval Fireman Recruit Damage Controlman Caitlin Dunn said. “As a service member I would never do that because the National Anthem means much more to me that it ever did.”
The National Anthem not only represents the country as a whole, but the people who have and are currently fighting for our country and our rights that come along with it. Including the freedom of speech, which does give them the right to kneel, but it’s morally wrong to kneel for the country that provides you with that right. This is possible because we have those rights and to kneel during the National Anthem is not only disrespecting those risking their lives,but the county that gives you those rights, and gives you a place to call home.
Although many players either kneeled, linked arms or didn’t come out on the field at all, some players did stand up and put their hand over their heart. One of those players was left tackle Alejandro Villanueva of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who was an Army Ranger and served in Afghanistan. Another was long-snapper Joe Cardona from the New England Patriots, who is currently on active duty in the U.S. Navy, who stood at attention on the sidelines during the anthem.
The act itself was completely unnecessary, but the message was clear and needed to be heard. Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, replied to the matter last year saying that although he disagreed with how Kaepernick went about sending the message, he did not completely disagree with the message he was trying to share.
Most of the players are kneeling for the cause, but most fans are not happy about it. Recent videos on twitter have showed fans throwing the jerseys of their favorite players into a fire and burning them, for the simple reason that they found it disrespectful what they are doing. and instead of helping the cause, they are getting booed and losing fans who feel very strongly about the matter, which all that it’s getting them is less money.
Featured photo courtesy of Keith Allison, CC license