Ever since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled for the United States national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 2016, several other NFL players and teams have followed his example. The actions of these football players symbolize a peaceful protest against police brutality in America.
The athletes are protesting in a variety of ways, such as locking arms with their teammates, sitting down or taking a knee. Many view the demonstration as disrespectful and uncalled for. However, these football players are effectively using their platform to make a necessary statement about racial inequality, not about America or the president.
On Sept. 23, 2017, in response to the increasing popularity of the NFL protest, President Trump posted a slew of tweets calling the participating athletes obscene names and characterizing the protest as a “disrespect to our flag.”
“I am not going to stand up and show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people, and people of color,” Kaepernick said in a press conference regarding his demonstration during the anthem.
Kaepernick’s reasoning for taking a knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner” is not out of disrespect for the country, it is rather the country’s disrespect for him and other people of color. The protest should have mobilized change in how the country treats people of color, but all it did was spark a debate on the morality of standing for the national anthem, completely ignoring the problem.
Police brutality is an increasingly pressing issue in today’s society. According to The Washington Post, 730 people were shot and killed by police in 2017, 165 of which were African Americans. NFL athletes chose to address their concerns relating to the situation in an appropriate and respectable manner. When expressing his opinion on the protest, Trump completely neglected to discuss why the football players were protesting in the first place. Instead, he fashioned it as a protest against America.
Trump also demanded that the NFL make standing for the national anthem mandatory. He redirected the protest from an issue of oppression towards African Americans to an issue of the First Amendment.
The First Amendment grants all citizens of the United States the freedom of assembly. It is the government’s job to protect the rights mentioned in the Constitution, and Trump’s comments display a blatant disregard for these rights. Disengagement during the anthem should not constitute grounds for suspension or termination, it is a choice.
In the past three days, Trump uploaded more tweets about the NFL protest than about major concerns including North Korea and natural disasters. Since Sept. 23, Trump devoted 22 tweets to talk about the protest. He even created a trending hashtag, “#StandForOurAnthem.”
The NFL maintains a reputation of ignoring domestic abuse claims towards players. Why is kneeling for the national anthem considered more of a controversy than violence? Thousands of people are selling their tickets and boycotting football games because of the athletes’ lack of patriotism, but no one is speaking out about the corrupt nature of the NFL.
At least the football players’ protest has not put anyone in imminent danger, unlike the actions of some unethical policemen who have murdered innocent people because of their racial prejudices. The fact that people of law enforcement have maliciously killed American citizens is more of a degradation to the country than kneeling for the pledge will ever be.
Oppression is an ongoing struggle, and Americans should not stand by the injustices committed toward their fellow citizens. Rather than criticizing those who participate in the protest, the country needs to recognize the issue at hand. Seeing that another African American was killed by a police officer should not become commonplace; murder cannot be ignored any longer.
Athletes should continue kneeling because their actions have an effect on the country. If they can provoke Trump enough to generate a number of tweets, they will eventually stimulate change in America concerning oppression of minorities and police brutality. Taking a knee may be recognized as a betrayal to the U.S. currently, but the impact that the protest will make on the country is nothing short of patriotic.