Kneeling in Order to Take a Stand

Katie Brubaker, Feature Editor

Political turmoil has ensued after NFL players started protesting police brutality and racial inequality at games. Their approach: taking a knee during the Star Spangled Banner. Not only have many football fans taken sides on the matter, but the whole country has seemingly been divided on whether or not these actions are politically and morally correct.

Colin Kaepernick, a former pro-quarterback who pioneered the anthem protests last year, has said he could not honor a song or “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”He also referenced the shootings of black men by police as one of reasons for his stance.“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” he told NFL Media. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way

— Colin Kaepernick

Those that take offense to these silent displays of protest feel that these actions not only disrespect the flag but are disrespectful to the United States military and first responders. Among those angered by the protests is the President of the United States himself. President Trump has stated that these displays are completely abominable, even tweeting “Stand for Anthem or sit for game.” This is an extremely hypocritical statement, considering that Trump tried to remove all transgender members of the military from service earlier in the year, and many of the “DREAMers” who were protected by DACA that are currently part of the military or are first responders will be removed under the Trump Administration.

In recent events, Trump has even disrespected a deceased African American soldier by belittling his wife’s pain by saying that he “knew what he signed up for” and refusing to acknowledge the fallen hero by his name. Putting your own life at stake for your country is one of the most heroic and patriotic things an individual can do. Trump’s lack of sympathy and respect for this fallen soldier and his wife is a real, legitimate act of disrespect for the United States Military.

The fact of the matter is that these players have the constitutional right to kneel and protest. The first amendment states, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Protesting is one of the most important, substantial rights an American has. What is even more incredible is that this right to defiance is what originally formed the United States. Without this liberty, how could American patriots possibly have separated from Britain and establish a new, free nation?

Those who feel the need to demean the actions of the protesters do not fully understand what the movement is for, or simply do not see it as a worthy cause. Heiler, a pro-Trump lawyer considering a Senate run, explains that, “Many African-Americans are focused on a particular set of facts and circumstances” that “drive that conduct, that protest,” Heiler said. “But when many other Americans see it, and Americans of all races,” they think “gosh, these guys all have it pretty good. You know they make a really good living, playing football. This country’s been really good to them. And so, even if they have an ax to grind, they shouldn’t grind it against the country or its symbol or its anthem.” Heiler appears to be trying to belittle the magnitude of the situation. These mere “facts and circumstances” he refers to have caused a great deal of pain within the African American community and continue to be a symbol of racial prejudice that lives on within the country today.

Furthermore, The actions of the kneelers cannot even be classified as hate speech. They are merely kneeling peacefully in the face of a country that still faces racial issues. The means of protest taken up by the players was that of a silent, non-destructive nature that the President found completely appalling and was extremely vocal about with his displeasure. On the other hand, “The Unite the Right” rally that elicited violence, promoted white supremacy, and took place in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier in the year got a delayed, and rather light response in comparison. Interesting.