To Kneel or Not to Kneel
December 1, 2017
Let them Kneel
Every Sunday we gather round as a nation to watch a sport which has become dominant not only in our culture but in business and the media. The NFL, National Football League, is the number one sports league in the world and is no longer just a sports organization but is a corporate mogul producing not just athletes but full-fledged celebrities constantly in the limelight, and it has come to be synonymous with “the same day the Church used to own,” as explained in the movie Concussion (2015). Naturally everything that goes on in those Sunday football games is being witnessed by millions of Americans each week.
Using this attention to their advantage, many NFL players have decided to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem to protest the racial injustice within our nation. This began last season with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. While Kaepernick has been released from the 49ers and is not currently playing in the NFL, his actions have sparked a movement among not only NFL players, but athletes worldwide, all coming to support the call to end racial injustice. Tampa Bay Lightning player J.T. Brown, Oakland Athletics player Bruce Maxwell, and Seattle Rapine FC and U.S. women’s national soccer team player Megan Rapinoe are among the hundreds of athletes who have joined in to support Kaepernick’s movement to diminish police brutality and racial inequity. With people of such fame taking these actions, it is bound to be noticed by the public.
When analyzing these actions, though, it is extremely important to pay close attention to what the players are protesting. They are not bashing our country but rather doing everything they can to improve it for the millions that are faced with inequality simply based on the color of their skin. Social injustice has been present since our nation’s founding, and in each generation, individuals took careful steps to try to eliminate or minimize such. This has been seen countless times with the abolition of slavery and ending of Jim Crow Laws (laws that promoted the segregation of African Americans to Whites in America in the late 19th century); however, the current issue many Americans are faced with is racial profiling. Many minorities, specifically African Americans, are targeted by the police, and as a result, innocents are being injured and killed. According to the data collected nationwide by the Washington Post, so far this year, 836 people have been shot and killed by the police, and in 2016, the rate reached 963 people. Among these statistics are innocents, young and old, who were merely targeted based on their skin color, for 26% of those killed are black despite blacks only being 13% of the nation’s population. Names like Terence Crutcher or Philando Castille, two unarmed black man killed in their cars while being pulled over or parked, and Tamir Rice, an unarmed 12-year-old black boy killed by police, all come to mind. Many have even tried to justify the stopping by police of certain ethnicities and races through stop-and-frisk, a questionably racist policy which allows police to stop an individual merely because they suspect unruly activity, not because any is being provided. This is the injustice the players are fighting against.
Many, however, have called this kneeling unpatriotic and a disgrace to our nation and our troops, but this is not the case. The kneeling is certainly not disrespecting our veterans, as leaders of the movement have consistently voiced and explained their respect for those who sacrifice for our country. In fact, many veterans support the protest and are joining in. Many have taken to social media to express their support for the players and explain that this is the freedom of speech that they fight to protect. Some have spoken to the media, such as Rory Fanning, an ex-Army Ranger who fought alongside former NFL star Pat Tillman in Afghanistan. He told Jacobin that “this is the opposite of an insult to those who died thinking they were fighting for liberty.” The other argument against the kneeling then remains that it disrespects the flag, but how many of us actually follow the flag etiquette outlined in the U.S. Flag Code. It clearly states that the flag should not be worn as clothing, never used for decoration, never utilized as a cover, and never carried flat, which is how the flag is carried during the singing of the National Anthem at football games. If we are so eager to break flag etiquette all other times, why does kneeling rather than standing during the anthem seem disrespectful?
While everyone is entitled to their own opinion of the protest, the most recent controversy over the kneeling has come due to the response of President Donald Trump. He has taken to Twitter to argue over an issue that does not directly concern him, which many find inappropriate. Many of the supporters of Kaepernick and his message argues that this social issue is none of Trump’s concern– rather, they believe he should be addressing the ‘true’ issues facing our nation such as foreign policy, monitoring free trade, dealing with the global warming, and, most importantly, ending the racial injustice the players are protesting.
While many believe that these players should be fired for their actions, others can argue that they are simply exercising their First Amendment rights and hoping to bring a positive change to our nation. Whether you support the method in which they do such, their intentions are not malicious, and they want to end the racial injustice that has perpetuated our country since its founding. Rather than disrespecting the flag, they are using the fame they have obtained as a platform to inform the average American citizen of the injustice going on in our nation, hoping to make the United States an even greater place to live.
Stay on Your Feet
In the recent months, a new trend has been occurring in NFL games, MLB games, and public schools, including on own– kneeling. Players are kneeling while the National Anthem is playing to make a statement to their audience.
Typically, while our anthem is playing, the proper response is to stand tall and proud, with one’s hand over their heart, embracing patriotism, but Colin Kaepernick, a former starting quarterback on the San Francisco 49ers, broke this recent tradition and began kneeling for the anthem. He claims the reason why he decided to kneel was to protest “a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” However, he does not mind disrespecting the millions of human beings that risked, and lost, their lives just for this overpaid athlete to say such a bold statement. Is it fair that the blood of men and women, both black, white, has been spilled for a man who uses his voice to create a metaphorical cataclysm in our society, the “demonized” patriots and the “rightful” anti-Americans? It’s not that his message is flawed, in fact, it has extreme value, but he should find another way to demonstrate it– not by disrespecting our flag.
This editorial, however, is not to discuss whether or not his ideas are unjust, but to discuss whether or not Kaepernick’s precedent of kneeling during our anthem is right. If you were to ask me, I would absolutely say that it is morally unacceptable. No American, no matter how young or old, should be allowed to sit during our national anthem– especially if you play for an American team (unless, of course, you physically cannot stand). Someone like Kaepernick has never had to face real bullet fire in the face to fight for his first amendment right to say what he is saying. One of the most important leaders that combated discrimination against young African-Americans was Martin Luther King Jr.– and you never saw him desecrate our flag, stomp on our flag, or disrespect our fallen troops who died for that flag. Now, we are aware that Kaepernick, to the furthest of most news sources’ knowledge, has never stepped on our flag, but his offensive act is following in the footsteps of other “beloved” celebrities’ “protests.” Someone, like Lil Wayne, the famous rapper, outright stomped on the flag in one of his music videos. The lack of respect and the crumbling of patriotism in this country is leading to our downfall.
Now, veterans are infuriated that this is what their country has come to– young men and women disgracing the flag they died for just to make a statement? If you were to ask me what Kaepernick SHOULD do, if he wanted to protest without disrespecting our flag, he should donate more of his multi-million dollar contract to help impoverished children, of all races, and decrease the size of his gigantic house to save money for different charities– NOT sit during the anthem. If you watch men who have even lost their legs from war, they find a way to stand tall to show respect. Kaepernick, seen as a hero for disrespecting fallen men and women, is behaving like a spoiled brat who wants to split our country more than it already is. If you want to see a real hero to respect, look at the chest of a veteran, not the back of a jersey on an athlete.