The national anthem has not always been a source of dissension between athletes, fans and United States citizens alike. But now, nearly two years after Colin Kaepernick decided to jump-start a conversation regarding police brutality against racial minorities, his simple, yet risky knee-to-turf tactic has set ablaze a controversy unlike any other.
From all directions, coverage of this polarizing topic has become practically unavoidable as protests during the national anthem have continued to dominate both the local and national news sectors, along with radio coverage, the internet and social media. Everywhere you look, averting your eyes from the topic is nearly impossible.
This topic especially is difficult to avoid when divider-in-chief Donald Trump just had to offer his two cents regarding the issue, albeit unintelligently, stating he believed anyone who knelt during the anthem is disrespecting the United States flag and should be “fired.” His unnecessary comments were disrespectful to the athletes and only added kerosene to the blaze. With his words, he continues to be a contributor to the problem and not a solution, further dividing the country and the players working to make it better.
As one of the most talked about subjects in America at the moment, a majority of Americans have an opinion as to whether it is acceptable for athletes in the NFL – or any other sport – to sit, kneel, stand, or crowd in the tunnel during the moment they play the song. But no matter your position on the issue, one thing is certain: Athletes too have the right to their freedom of speech.
While the method may be polarizing, they aren’t kneeling and using their platform as a display of disrespect for the country or veterans who have died for it. Rather, they are simply doing it to shed light on injustices that have otherwise been swept under the rug. There is nothing wrong with sitting or kneeling, as they are providing a voice to the voiceless. While kneeling is prominent, it’s not the only method of protest in use, as many NFL teams have decided to embrace one another by linking arms in solidarity before or during the anthem. This is also an effective method of protest, as it shows that peace and unity is stronger than racism and hate.
With all being considered, players who sit or kneel are undeserving of the disgusting treatment they receive for fighting for causes they believe to be just — especially those of social injustice. If anything, taking a knee for their beliefs is about as patriotic a thing as they could do.
So, we as citizens must support them in their cause and give them a reason to be proud of the country they live in. We must listen and keep an open mind to what they have to say about what they see as problems within the country. Some things are greater than football, and this is one of them. It’s time to change and make this effort, not argue and stay divided. Now, more than ever, we need to embrace one another with love and respect – as love is and always will be, the answer to driving out hate and evil.