As the 2018 NFL season gets underway, millions of fans nationwide are anticipating a fresh start for each of the 32 teams. Many of them will come to the games early to greet their team out of the tunnel.
Before we can kick off the game, the National Anthem is performed. Until recently, this was not a headline unless the performer did really well or really bad. Colin Kaepernick decided to sit during the anthem in the 2016 preseason, creating a wave of debate and controversy.
NFL Players should have the right to protest
Whichever side you fall on is up to you; however, I believe the First Amendment gives these players the right to kneel, as well as raise awareness to important issues on and off the field.
Kaepernick at first sat on the bench, until a discussion and compromise with former Green Beret and Seattle Seahawks defensive back Nate Boyer. Boyer suggested that instead of sitting, Kaepernick would take a knee next to Boyer during the next game. Kaepernick did so, and was joined by other players, including his teammate Eric Reid. This spread throughout the league, with many players following suit. This was met immediately with criticism from the media and the fans, as well as many former or current members of the military who believed it was disrespectful to the troops and the flag.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media after that first game. “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.”
This event came after numerous innocent African Americans had been unnecessarily and brutally shot by police who were freed in court. Kaepernick, among many others, realized the importance of standing up for racial tension, inequality, police brutality, and discrimination. Instead of literally standing up, hundreds of NFL players have either sat or taken a knee.
The uproar seemed to have gone away for a bit, until President Donald Trump said at a rally, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘get that son of a b**** off the field right now – he’s fired.”
Immediately after this, hundreds of NFL players kneeled or raised their fists during that week’s anthem. After Trump declined to invite the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors to the White House, since many players had announced they were not attending, he did the same with the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. Instead of celebrating a team’s success and accomplishments, he selfishly made the win about himself, turning it into a “celebration of America.”
Many against the players kneeling fail to acknowledge their reasoning. Innocent lives are unfairly being taken by corrupt and unjust police officers. They claim these players do nothing else for a greater good, when the opposite is true. Many of these athletes, in addition to taking a knee, are also giving back to their communities and contributing to creating change. Eagles Safety Malcolm Jenkins and Wide Receiver Torrey Smith, among others, has met with both police and Congress to collaborate on a solution. Players on all 32 teams give back to their communities, helping to make the world a better place. J.J. Watt raised over $37 million or victims of Hurricane Harvey. Chris Long donated his entire 2017 salary to fund scholarships for his hometown. Activist athlete LeBron James recently opened a school providing free tuition, food, uniforms and a guaranteed scholarship to the University of Akron.
The U.S. First Amendment gives the Constitutional right to freedom of protest. Read it right from the horse’s mouth:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Peacefully should be emphasized. These men are not saying anything, they are not disrupting others from participating in the anthem. They are peacefully standing up–or rather, kneeling down–for equality and justice for all.
To those who are still against it, you are entitled to your own opinion. Just remember this is not in any way meant to insult our military, anthem, flag, or country. These are brave Americans using their platform to raise awareness to an important issue and inspire change. If we could all realize this and start to collaborate, these issues could become a thing of the past. That would truly “Make America Great Again”.
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