The San Francisco 49ers faced off against the former San Diego Chargers in a preseason exhibition game on Sept. 1, 2016.
As usual, before kickoff, players, coaches, referees and fans stood for the national anthem. But out of the 68,500 people in Levi Stadium that participated in the singing of the national anthem, Colin Kaepernick, the former starting quarterback for the 49ers, took a knee. Naturally, the sports world was shaken by Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the anthem honoring our country’s soldiers, flag and independence.
Kaepernick later explained to NFL reporters that he took a knee during the anthem as a way to peacefully protest the shooting of unarmed African Americans and the police brutality that they have endured. Although this was a legitimate explanation, it would still be an unending reservoir of conversation that would continue for the duration of the 2016 NFL season through the beginning of the 2017 NFL season.
Now that the NFL season has begun anew, the topic of kneeling during the national anthem has resurfaced. Several NFL players such as Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Von Miller and LeSean McCoy have joined Kaepernick in his protest.
After the conclusion of the third week of this new NFL season, President Donald Trump addressed the subject that began over a year ago at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama for the campaign of Senator Luther Strange. During the rally, President Trump addressed a litany of topics and issues including the increase in NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. However, due to the president’s display of foul language and lack of a vocabulary, reporters were unable to fully disclose what he said.
On Sept. 23, Trump posted on Twitter and said, “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
Trump would post another 16 tweets to bolster his opposition of this topic including a tweet that stated that the NFL’s ratings are “way down” not only because the players are kneeling during the national anthem, but he also attributed the low ratings to boring games. Because of this comment, there has been tremendous backlash between the office of the President and the National Football League. These repercussions include a great upsurge of players kneeling during the national anthem.
Now, there are well over 200 documented players that take a knee during the national anthem, not to mention entire teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys that lock arms during the singing of the anthem. In the case of the Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans, players opted not to take the field during the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” These teams as well as several others, are choosing to make a stand for something that they believe in, yet they are being condemned and ridiculed by the president.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said, “I think we have to celebrate their right to express themselves, as every American does.”
President Trump is opposed to players kneeling because he believes that it is a clear discourtesy of the flag and the veterans who risked their lives to protect the freedom of the citizens of the United States. Thus, he stated that the “league should back the U.S,” implying that the NFL should align their policies with country.
What the President doesn’t realize is the fact that the American armed forces and veterans fight in order to safeguard the rights of the people under the nation’s laws and Constitution. If those rights are infringed upon or aren’t being exercised, then the sacrifices of those who are in the military lose their importance. Knowing this, many veterans and soldiers support NFL players in their protest, because it means that the veterans were successful in protecting the rights of the American people.
John Middlemas, a 97-year-old World War II veteran said, “Those kids have a right to protest.” So, if veterans of this nation who have actually engaged in combat are in support of individuals voicing their opinions and exercising their First Amendment right, then why does President Trump have an issue with it? It poses the question, who is really attempting to disrespect and suppress those who are utilizing their rights? Are the players of the NFL at fault for simply making a stand against the evident racial divide and violence, or is it President Trump for attempting to subdue the players’ right to protest?
Due to the popularity of football and its amusing digital counterpart, fantasy football, this topic is prevalent in the Wesleyan community.
Senior Holt Cochran said, “The players that are kneeling during the national anthem are nonviolently protesting a social justice issue. They are using their platform as celebrities in a sport that is a huge part of our culture to express their views on police brutality and discrimination against minorities, an issue they believe needs more attention. It is within their constitutional right to kneel for the national anthem, because they are exercising their freedom of speech.”
The world needs more people who are willing to openly profess their personal views. The players who are publicly making a statement in spite of what the fans, officials or even the President believe are the people who act as the voice for the voiceless.