Whether you are a sports fan or not, you’ve probably at least heard about the controversy in the NFL over players kneeling for the national anthem. Since it’s such a big issue in the sports world right now, as the sports editor for The Pacer, I thought I’d weigh in on what my thoughts are on the subject.
It all started in the preseason of the 2016 season when then backup (former starter) quarterback for the San Fransisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick sat in the third preseason game during the National Anthem. Apparently he’d sat in the first two preseason games as well, but it didn’t get noticed by the media until their third game.
Kaepernick told NFL.com, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color…when there’s significant change and I feel that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
It began with a lot of blowback for Kaepernick, but little by little more NFL, eventually NBA, and even United States Olympic women’s soccer team member Megan Rapino, began kneeling before the anthem.
Fast forward to the 2017 season and many NFL players are choosing to protest the anthem in this way and sometimes it gets beyond ridiculous. What I’m referring to is the Oct. 1 game in week four of the NFL season where the Miami Dolphins played the New Orleans Saints in England. Since the game was played in England but at least the majority of the players are from the United States both the Star Spangled Banner and God Save the Queen were played before kickoff. Three Miami players, Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Julius Thomas were kneeling during the United States’ anthem. Then when God Save the Queen came on they stood up, and that is unacceptable in my opinion and here’s why.
These men play in a country that grants them the right to use their amazing skills, that probably one percent or less of the American population poses, to make a lot of money using those skills. There are men and women who have fought and are currently fighting and dying for their right to play a game for a living.
These players don’t get up and work a 9-5 job where they have bills and debt to worry about even after they get home because they make millions of dollars playing a game. Don’t get me wrong either, professional athletes work their tails off to be good at what they do. Their lives consist of a lot of hard physical training, but it’s not like anyone who makes it to the NFL hates football. They enjoy what they do.
Are there injustices in this country? Of course there are, but find me a country that is perfect and I’ll pack my bags and move there right now. The United States has its flaws just like Great Britain has its flaws, Russia has theirs, Brazil, Kenya, Japan and so on. Nowhere is perfect, but being an American means something. America has never been perfect, just look at slavery and the treatment of the Native Americans, but we’ve come a long way. We have issues with immigrants flooding in because they want to be here, and why is that? It’s because here, in our great country, people have the opportunity like nowhere else to make something of themselves. Some places have social classes that if you’re born into it you’re stuck there for the rest of your life, but here opportunity is at everyone’s fingertips, it just depends on how hard you’re willing to work to achieve it.
The National Anthem doesn’t just represent police. That’s like saying UTM only represents the Communications department and their actions. No, many other people and departments, organizations, sports teams etc. make up what UTM is, just like a multitude of other things make up the United States. People typically don’t die for UTM though.
People are however willing to fight and die for the flag and what it represents. One could argue that what the American flag and incidentally the anthem stands for the most, are the Americans that are willing to fight for our right to be free. And yes that right includes protesting in the way the NFL players are. If it didn’t and was against the law then they could be kicked off their team or whatever for doing it. People can still protest in a respectful way however, and shaming the flag while the countries national anthem plays is just not the right way to do it.
If the NFL players wanted to ban together and start an organization that sought to stop police brutality or chose to speak out in the post-game press conferences about it, then that would be fine.
What is kneeling for the national anthem doing though? What is it really doing? They’re kneeling and then how many of these men take action afterwards? They say they’re doing it to bring awareness to the police brutality in this country, but is it bringing more awareness to that or are people more talking about how disrespectful it is of them to not stand for the National Anthem? I think it’s really just bringing more attention to themselves, and, by effect, dividing this country.
As I said, there are so many more productive ways to get their message across than the way they’re going about it. Kneeling for the anthem isn’t bringing attention to what they want it to. That was already huge before the 2016 preseason. It’s bringing attention to themselves and forcing people to choose sides on whether they agree with these players stance or not.
The flag represents the freedom that we have in this country and the men and women who fight to protect that freedom. I will always stand with my hand over my heart when the national anthem plays to honor those men and women and to honor the sacrifices that have been made to afford me the privilege to live in such a country as this.
(U.S. Air Force photo from whiteman.af.mil)