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Taking a Risk While Taking a Knee

Madison Campbell, Staff Writer

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Fire or suspend.

Those are just two words tweeted out by President Trump while attacking NFL players for kneeling during the National Anthem during the first weekend of the season. In his rant, he referred to the players as disrespectful towards the United States, amongst other things. He ended the online tirade by urging people to boycott the NFL as a whole, and the response blew up.

Angry football fans who view the kneeling as a sign of disrespect have posted videos of themselves getting rid of their sports memorabilia. Some people burned Pittsburgh Steelers jerseys after the team refused to come out of the locker room for the anthem while playing the Chicago Bears. Others threw hats and old tickets into the garbage.

With fists raised to the sky or linked arms, this form of silently protesting has become a national movement that, even a year after it began, has divided the country in half. During the off season of football, conversation about the movement disappeared. Now, with the season back in session, news websites are filled with articles both shaming and applauding the actions of the players.

One of the first athletes to protest during the anthem is a former football player for the San Francisco 49’ers named Colin Kaepernick. The quarterback took a knee during the anthem for the first time on September 1st, 2016 alongside his teammate Eric Reid while playing in San Diego.

From that moment on, the movement of kneeling began to spread like wildfire, with players from other sports joining in as well. Taking a knee for the anthem has become a sign of rebellion to most in recent weeks, however it first started as a silent protest of the oppression of minorities in America.

Other athletes are urging people to see that it’s not the flag they’re silently protesting; it’s the persistent oppression of minorities in America. While speaking to NFL.com last year, Kaepernick affirmed his actions, and gave a reason as to why he began to kneel.

“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 said. “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’s quote references the shooting of Alton Sterling, an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by a police officer for selling CDs outside of a store. The Baton Rouge native’s death created an uproar and tension in the city, especially after the officers were not charged for the shooting.

The argument on whether the actions of these players are justified or not simply comes down to the fact that nothing is written in stone regarding standing, kneeling, or sitting for the anthem. Just like there is no document that requires students to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance at school, nothing written officially requires athletes to do so for the anthem at games.

Many people fighting the movement cite the actions of these players as ‘unconstitutional’, however there isn’t anything in the United States Constitution that discusses proper etiquette for during the anthem. Supporters of the silent protest also use the Constitution to prove their point, however they use the first amendment and the right to free speech instead.

At the end of the day, these protests are only able to take place thanks to the freedom in our country, and the fact we have the right to protest and speak out for issues we feel are important.

“[Colin] is a man who should be celebrated for his courage to seek change on important issues. Instead, to this day, he is unemployed and portrayed as a radical un-American who wants to divide our country.” -Eric Reid on Kaepernick’s treatment after beginning to kneel.

As a free agent quarterback, Colin Kaepernick was not picked up by a team following his 2016-17 season with San Francisco. It’s unknown whether this was done because of his protests or not, but it can be inferred that that is not the case, as other players and teams continue to do what he started.

Rather than shame Colin for what he did, members of the NFL family are emulating him and carrying on what he began; an act of protesting that lives on and continues to raise awareness for racism in America. These protests are acting as an affirmation to always speak your mind, whether that means standing up (or taking a knee, rather) for what you believe in; and they truly show the beginning of a new America already.

 

 

 

 

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Taking a Risk While Taking a Knee