The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States vouches for the freedom of speech, religion and press. The amendment gives all citizens of America the right to openly speak their minds and practice what they believe in, as long as it does not endanger or wreak havoc upon anyone.
Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, is well known for many things; but perhaps most famous is his exercise of this amendment during the 2016-17 NFL season.
Beginning in the preseason, he made the decision to sit on the bench while the national anthem was played in the stadium in order to protest social injustice and police brutality. More specifically, Kaepernick, who has sat and knelt during the anthem at different games, said he refused to honor a song or “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Since the quarterback’s original protest, several other NFL players have decided to follow suit and sit or take a knee while the anthem is sung. These players include Mike Evans, Terrell Suggs, and Von Miller.
“We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy,” said 49ers safety Eric Reid. Many other players have recently spoken out supporting their teammates and explaining their reasoning for protesting.
Recently, the movement #TakeAKnee has been rapidly spreading throughout the world of sports via social media. With a new season beginning, entire teams have begun to stand– or rather, kneel– with their teammates in protest. On Sunday, September 24, the Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks stayed in the locker room until the song was over.
The President of the United States stepped in and made a statement at a campaign rally in Alabama about the situation, gaining the movement much more popularity. When questioned about it, President Trump avidly and quite inappropriately expressed his disrespect for the protesters.
“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. He’s fired!’” Trump said. Additionally, the President also requested that attendees of games exit the stadium when they witness the protests happening.
Although the Constitution–one of the most important documents of our country–professes the liberty for all citizens to openly express their beliefs, the President of the United States does not believe that the football players should be able to peacefully protest.
Not only is this hypocritical, it also shows how President Trump is opposed to working towards equality for all races. This sets a substandard example for the rest of the United States and leads others to believe that discrimination is not an extremely apparent and divisive issue. If the leader of a country does not give importance to a matter, there is little reason that the citizens of said country should continue to care about the topic.
Luckily, much of the country seems to disagree with what the President has said. Several NFL teams have released statements in disapproval of the President’s remarks since the rally.
“We must not let misguided, uninformed and divisive comments from the President or anyone else deter us from our efforts to unify. Our stance in support of the liberties of peaceful, personal expression afforded to our players and all Americans will remain strong…,” said owners of the Cleveland Browns Dee and Jimmy Haslam via Twitter.
Other American citizens have voiced their opinions about the situation. Many people, such as myself, support the stance the athletes have and are encouraging them to continue throughout the season. This encouragement is immensely positive simply because it motivates athletes and other citizens to use their freedom of speech.
Police brutality and racial division have been a growing dispute in the recent past of our country. Minorities continuously face much harsher conditions in many lifestyle situations all around the United States.
Fortunately, there is a copious amount of campaigns to raise awareness and improve conditions for the country’s citizens. While equality for all residents of America should already be in place, the work being done– such as kneeling during the national anthem– to promote this idea is tremendously beneficial.
The unifying comments, as well as the continued silent protests, are vital to the future of abolishing the race divide in the United States. With the cooperation of the athletes, teams, and rest of the country, we can take a major step in the direction of equality for everyone.