Before a National Football League game last year, then-49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick shook up the world when he kneeled during the national anthem.
Kaepernick explained his position stating that he was not going to “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick was referring to a series of events that involved police officers shooting and killing minorities across the country. He added that he would continue to protest until he feels like “the American flag represents what it’s supposed to represent,” calling for the improvement of law enforcement and abolishment of racial injustice in America.
A year has since passed, and many other professional football players have followed Kaepernick’s lead in kneeling during the national anthem. This movement has drawn much criticism from some Americans as they look to kneeling during the national anthem as a disrespectful stance toward veterans and the country as a whole.
While many Americans plead for this form of peaceful protest to stop, they never add any constructive substitution that could take the place of kneeling.
Kaepernick’s form of protest came at a time of great intensity in our country, yet it was obviously the most peaceful and respectful form of protesting. So if even that wasn’t good enough, it begs the question: What is?
On Sept. 23, President Donald Trump sent out multiple tweets advocating that NFL players should be either fired or suspended if they fail to stand up for the national anthem and called said players “son’s of b——“ at a rally held in Alabama.
In response, many NFL teams and players stood together to protest Trump’s beliefs Sept. 24 in the form of kneeling, locking arms or even sitting out the performance of the anthem.
Now it is very understandable for some that kneeling for the flag may hurt some people. For personal reasons, whether it be because a loved one was lost in battle, they themselves served, etc. However most players who kneeled prior to Sept. 24 did so to combat racial injustices. But most will purposely turn a blind eye to and not acknowledge it.
There’s pain for those that are kneeling as well. There’s pain on both sides. Yet many simply acknowledge one side, their side. For those that kneel, it doesn’t come from a place of hate, it comes from a place of hurt and wanting this country to do better. Few things are more patriotic than demanding justice and equality for all Americans as well as simply wanting this already great country to be better.
The protest to combat racial injustice affects our military as well. Anthony Hill, Air Force veteran, was killed by police while naked and unarmed at home. Kenneth Chamberlain, former US Marine, killed by police after his medical alert device went off and police busted down his door and shot him dead. All these soldiers were African-American. It’s obvious that even being a part of the military doesn’t prepare you for the racially charged violence that comes from the bad apples of our law enforcement.
Now to the players in bulk that kneeled after Trump’s comments toward them, it was a sign of unity against the president’s seemingly semi-fascist attack on free speech. Not to follow Kaepernick’s undertaking. It took a personal attack from the president to get these players almost unanimously united.
It begs consideration that until you see or feel what Kaepernick was protesting, unless it directly affects you, one won’t consider it important or applicable to one’s own life.
It is also unfair to say that athletes in general should just “shut up and play.” That because players make a lot of money or simply that they’re athletes, they’re not entitled to a social or political opinion. This comes off nonsensical when you consider NFL players are by and large college educated individuals from all over the country.
Many moral turntables throughout U.S. history started with protests like this. Women were looked at as if they were attacking the “American way of life” when they protested for their right to vote, Vietnam War protesters were seen as un-American and they were actually protesting for soldiers to come home and not die, and so on.
Protesting America’s current social cycle by pointing out its racial injustices should not be combated, it’s actually a big part of our recent history. Coincidentally, Kaepernick is a football player. What do football players do when a player on either team is injured? They kneel. Symbolically, it’s not at all far-fetched to say that this country is hurting and the protestors are kneeling to acknowledge the pain being felt.