Getting down on one knee is no longer merely something we eagerly await at the end each Bachelor season finale, or something demanded by the fierce and beautiful silver-haired rightful heir to the Iron Throne (I may or may not totally have a crush on Daenerys Targaryen…).
No, taking a knee has evolved into so much more: the vanguard of peaceful protesting against racism and injustice in the country. Last weekend, following an obscene tweet from the ever-eloquent Mr. Trump, members of several NFL teams knelt, linked arms, or stayed in the locker room during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. The protests have sparked both admiration and outrage. Between the patriotism, the discrimination, and the tweets (ugh), there is a lot to unpack in this issue. But first let’s look at the events leading up to last weekend.
How We Got Here
The protests of last weekend are the latest in a movement started by former 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick in the 2016 season. Following the brutal murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, Kaepernick sat out during the playing of the national anthem to protest police brutality and the treatment of blacks in America. The protests evolved to kneeling. Other members of the 49ers and other teams joined in, and the protests began to catch national attention.
Kaepernick (right) kneeling with teammate Eric Ried Source: CNN
Colin Kaepernick has since left the 49ers and has yet to be signed to another team. Outraged fans burn Kaepernick jerseys and threaten to stop watching games if protests continue. Though Kaepernick is off the field for the time being, other players from different teams have continued to kneel during the national anthem.
Monday, Trump tweeted this:
Despite this, the biggest wave of kneeling protests happened. Owners knelt with their teams. Entire teams linked arms. Patriotic football fans everywhere choked on their fried chicken and began foaming at the mouth. Francis Scott Key rolled over in his grave.
Source: Elite Daily
Source: ABC News
Source: NY Daily News
Race relations and police brutality are clearly problems in the United States. So, are these protests justified and prolific? Or are they misguided and disrespectful? Opinions have been very split.
Disrespect for the Flag and the Country?
For so many people, the flag is so much more than just thirteen stripes and fifty stars. It represents our country and all of the freedoms it protects. It represents our loyal troops and all the lives sacrificed securing these freedoms. Thus, kneeling during the national anthem is a slap in the face to the armed forces. Coming from millionaires who have thrived in America, the insult seems even worse and ungrateful. Donald Trump has dusted off his signature catch phrase to call for the kneeling players to be FIRED.
Many people believe that the player’s cause is worthy, but their method of protest is misguided. For them, disrespecting the flag is going too far.
Who’s Country is it?
For Colin Kaepernick and other kneelers, the flag doesn’t seem like a representation of their rights. As Megan Rapinoe, a NWSL player who is also gay, put it, she knows “what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties”. Standing during the national anthem is a way to acknowledge that America doesn’t guarantee liberty and justice for all.
It’s true that Kaepernick and other professional sports players have been granted opportunity and lead rather fortunate and wealthy lives. However, that doesn’t mean Kaepernick and other players don’t face racial discrimination. And shouldn’t fortunate black Americans like Kaepernick use their position of wealth and advantage to bring attention to the blaring issue and advocate for a cause they believe in?
This map depicts instances of police violence and murders of black Americans.
A Message Misconstrued?
However between the tweets and the rampant media coverage, it seems like meaning behind the protests is getting kind of muddled and the kneeling itself has almost become sort of a bandwagon. The protests aren’t about the troops. They aren’t about 9/11 and they are especially not about Donald Trump (Sorry Donny, it’s not all about you. Kaepernick started kneeling when Obama was still president).
The protests are about the three hundred unarmed black men and women shot to death each year and the justice they don’t get. It’s about the racism that has persisted in our country at almost every level since its founding. Yes, America has made tons of progress and yes, we have more freedoms than other countries. But does that mean we should accept the status quo and stop thriving for ultimate liberty and justice for all?
The Good Ol’ First Amendment
Maybe you think the act of kneeling is misguided, or maybe you think it’s totally justified. However what should not be a point of debate is the fact that these players 100% have the right to protest. To demand that people stop protesting, or to imply that they should lose their jobs for exercising one of their fundamental rights peacefully is absolutely ludicrous and borderline authoritarian.
As Trevor Noah pointed out in the Daily Show this week, It is crazy that white nationalists and nazis can march with torches and some of them are still “very fine people” while when black football players kneel they should be thrown off the field.
If the protests continue this weekend, I’m sure they will be used as fuel for ironic Facebook posts that point out all of the rights kneelers have as American citizens, yet shames them for exercising them.
What do you think? Are these protests justified? Misguided? Disrespectful? Let us know in the comments below!
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