Taking a knee: NFL players protest

by Sophia Shubatt

Of the Gleaner


Athletes across the nation, from high schoolers to players in the NFL and MLB, have been taking a knee during the National Anthem. Many fans are outraged, many are supportive and many don’t know what to think.

The first step to understanding the issue is to really look into why these athletes are doing what they’re doing. The protests started in 2016 with Colin Kaepernick, of the 49ers, when he began kneeling during the anthem to bring awareness to police brutality and the general inequality that people of color experience in America.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” said Kaepernick to NFL.com.

These protests have gained traction in the last few weeks, most notably with players in the NFL, with many teams and individuals taking part. The backlash is substantial and many fans are upset, even booing the players involved, but teams seem to be standing by their players, making statements of support.

Chicago Bears Chairman George H. McCaskey made the following statement:

“The Chicago Bears are proud to support our players, coaches and all members of our organization to bring peace and unity together through football. What makes this the greatest country in the world are the liberties it was founded upon and the freedom to express oneself in a respectful and peaceful manner. Through important dialogue with our players and team, this divisive political situation has unified our franchise for the present and the future.”

President Trump responded to the protests by saying, “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, out, he’s fired.” While many of his supporters agreed with him, Trump’s statements seemed to serve as a catalyst because players responded by locking arms and entire teams knelt together in solidarity.

The United States actually has set guidelines for how to show respect for the flag (US Flag Code) that have been in place since Flag Day of 1923, but it makes no mention of standing or kneeling and whether or not either is unacceptable.

The code originally enforced penalties for disrespect to the flag, but the Supreme Court ruled that these punishments restricted Americans’ First Amendment right to free speech. While these guidelines are not punishable by law, they are generally still respected and looked to by government officials.

Interestingly, the Flag Code does have rules that are broken every day, but nobody even knows such rules exist. For example, it is considered disrespectful to wear the flag as a piece of clothing or to use it in advertisements of any kind other than for those  of the military.

Those who are upset about the protests are angry because they believe kneeling shows a lack of respect for the soldiers who fought for our freedom.“To me, standing for the National Anthem is a chance to thank the people who fought and are still fighting to keep our country strong,” said Maria Molo, ‘18. “I agree with these players’ message, but I think there are better and more respectful ways to go about protesting.”

Molo points out that, with all the resources these players have, there are much more effective ways to get their message out to the community. “It just seems like everyone is talking about the controversial kneeling instead of the actual problem of inequality.”

Wahlert’s own football team has mixed feelings on the issue. “It’s hard to say. I think there is a huge issue of inequality in our country, but I don’t agree with the way they’re going about it,” said Eli Berthel, ‘18.

Putting aside the controversy, kneeling during the national anthem is a peaceful protest, a right protected under the First Amendment. Perhaps, instead of being angry or supportive of the kneeling itself, Americans should look at their own lives and really try to solve the problems that the kneeling represents.