Point/Counterpoint: In Favor of Kneeling During The Nation Anthem

Leana Rutt, Junior, Staff Reporter

Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the 49ers, sat during the National Anthem for the first time on August 14, 2016. He said, “I am not going to stand up 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.” This has become a national protest, with over 200 players kneeling in three weeks. The protests have caused major controversy, as some cite these players’ actions as disrespect towards those who fought for America’s freedoms. They see the peaceful act of kneeling as an unacceptable form of protest.

If kneeling during the national anthem is not an acceptable form of protest, what is? Marching with tiki torches? According to our president, the black NFL players who peaceably protest racism and police brutality are “sons of bitches,” but the white supremacists and neo Nazis who represent everything wrong with our country are “very fine people.”

Daily Show Host Trevor Noah asked, sardonically, “When is the right time to protest?” Should Rosa Parks have, instead, ridden the bus home and then sat down on her couch to protest racism? Of course not. Prejudice and inequity are combatted by protesting in public spaces where people have no choice but to listen.
If the protesting makes you uncomfortable, or if you think you shouldn’t be forced to watch the protest when you just came to watch the game, ask yourself this: What’s worse? Your discomfort seeing a handful of football players kneeling during a song? Or the relentless terror that minorities experience, fearing for their lives because of the color of their skin? What’s worse? Your discomfort witnessing a group of players peacefully exercise their first amendment right? Or the bias against all minorities in America experience when their freedom of religion and expression and their freedom from fear and discrimination are violated every single day? Ask yourself this: Is my privilege so great that my pristine leisure time is more sacred than the rights of others to live without fear for their lives?
Personally, I would answer “no” to all of those questions, in a heartbeat.

It’s pertinent to remember that the flag and the national anthem are not America– they are symbols of what America should be. But these symbols are not nearly as important as the freedoms they are meant to represent. A country that disrespects huge numbers of its people with hatred and abuse is a far worse offense than a small number of people “disrespecting” the county’s symbols.
Ever since the Revolutionary War, patriotic Americans have proven time and time again that through protest and advocacy we have the power to make this country be the best it can be. That’s exactly what the football players are trying to do. They are demonstrating their patriotism because they know our country can and must do better than this state of division and violence. The football players who are taking a knee show us all that they don’t have to be from New England to be true Patriots.