By: Alexa Tironi
I have never cared much about football. To be honest I’d rather watch paint dry than sit through an entire game of 200-pound men running into each other, over and over again. But when Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, took a knee during the National Anthem and the twitterverse exploded, my interest was piqued. Kaepernick first knelt for the anthem back in August during a preseason game; however the effect of his actions didn’t reach full scale until the President decided to weigh in. On September 24th, 2017, Donald Trump tweeted, “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”
It seems the President is also unfamiliar with the NFL handbook, because nowhere in those pages does it say anything about the conduct required during the playing of the Anthem; so to fire or suspend these players for kneeling would be without cause. Later that day, Trump also tweeted, “NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”...Looks like CNN isn’t the only one with plummeting ratings, apparently the most watched sport in America is also suffering. This was not the end of the President’s rant. At a rally in Alabama, Trump continued his comments 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. He’s fired. He’s fired!” That’s right. The President had to be bleeped. After this statement, the situation was really set ablaze.
In response to Trump’s comments, many more NFL players began to kneel during the anthem. The public turned to Kaepernick looking for an explanation for his actions. This is what 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 statement led to extreme backlash from some Americans. Many claim that as a man of wealth and high social standing, he has no right to speak of oppression. To these people: you have missed the whole point. Kaepernick does not kneel for a personal oppression or the racism he faces. He kneels to represent those who have no voice. He kneels for the people who society ignores. Colin Kaepernick has been gifted with a platform to which he can use to raise awareness. That is what he is doing, and guess what? It’s his constitutional right.
Because we live in a country where we have the freedom to speak our minds and believe what we want, this means that nobody must stand for the pledge. It is our first amendment right to assemble freely- which leads to the right to peaceful protest. Kaepernick and any of his fellow kneelers are not breaking any laws, just merely exercising their rights as Americans. To address those who feel that refusing to stand for the flag means disrespecting the country and our troops: those brave men and women who fight for America are fighting for our rights. In summation, they are fighting for the Constitution and the principles it enforces. These people are fighting for the American people’s right to choose whether they stand or sit.
A majority of America (it seems) think that to kneel before the flag is disrespectful. That may be so, but do you know what else is disrespectful? The fact that 210 black people have been killed by police in 2017. The fact that black women and women of color make 59 cents to the white male dollar. And the fact that people in KKK uniforms stormed the streets of Charlottesville, barely three months ago, and were called “very fine people” by the President. These people have been told not to march, told not to yell, told not to fight back, and now, told not to kneel.
To stand or kneel, it is your choice. And that’s the thing about America and this country. We claim to be the country with all of these unalienable rights. And if that’s true, then these players who kneel, and any American who chooses to do so, have broken no law, and should not receive any punishment. It’s time we start proving the last line of the anthem that we hold so dearly. We are the land of the free. So let’s act like it.