Even Players Have Basic Rights

Staff Writer: Alexandria Weaver

Kneeling during the national anthem was started by now-former NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick in protest to the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Doing so led to multiple game suspensions and him not being able to get signed to a team. Slowly but surely, other players and then full teams began to kneel as well. Although this began in 2016, the debate on whether kneeling during the anthem should be allowed is burning hotter than ever.

On Aug. 10, 2018, the president of the United States of America, Donald Trump, tweeted, “The NFL players are at it again- taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem. Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their ‘outrage’ at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love. Be happy, be cool! A football game that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!”  President Trump is known for his excessive tweeting and his profound disapproval of kneeling during the National Anthem.

Is kneeling illegal? Under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, the people have a right to a peaceful protest and freedom of speech.

Taking a knee to commemorate the lives lost due to police brutality, noting the undeniable indignation most people have towards such a reality, is as peaceful as it could get. They aren’t disrupting the game, because the anthem is played before it starts. They aren’t talking over the anthem; they are indeed silent with their heads bowed in tribute.  Unlike the common misconception, the kneeling is only about the lives that have been lost; not about the flag or the anthem itself.

According to Snopes.com on Aug. 28, 2016, Kaepernick spoke to reporters about the protest that took place on the team’s third preseason game two days prior. Kaepernick stated, “I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. That’s something that’s not happening.”

One of Kaepernick’s former teammates, Eric Reid, said in an interview published by The New York Times, “After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former NFL player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. 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.”

Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid

Colin Kaepernick (right) and teammate, Eric Reid (left) kneeling during the anthem. Photo Courtesy of: USAToday.com

Kneeling is about the fact that while the pledge says, “liberty and justice for all,” there isn’t liberty and justice for all. Kneeling is about the inequalities and injustices currently taking place all over our country.

The people who have a problem with the kneeling have never had their liberty infringed upon by the people who are supposed to enforce justice. The people who have a problem with it have never faced inequalities that are built into laws or bred into a whole group of people simply because of where they came from or the color of their skin.

The players that are bold enough to “stand up” for what they believe should have the right to do so. This can also be compared to the sit-ins that occurred during segregation and the civils rights movement.

Sit-ins

African American man reading a newspaper surrounded by a crowd of white men while sitting at a white only lunch counter. Photo Courtesy of: civilrightsmovementera.weebly.com

During the 1960’s, to protest segregation, African Americans would sit at white only diners and request to be serviced. Many white people would cuss at them, spit on them, beat them and drag them out of their seats simply for sitting and protesting. Sitting was also considered a “disrespectful protest.” But disrespectful to whom? Is the action of kneeling really disrespectful or is it about who is doing it and why?

MLK

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Preparing for his mugshot and gazing out from his jail cell in Birmingham in 1956. Photo Courtesy of: The Atlantic

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from his Letter From Birmingham Jail, “When you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments, when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’ then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”

How can one stand “proudly” for the national anthem considering the injustices happening to innocent black lives seemingly because of the color of their skin? How can one stand “proudly” for the national anthem when inalienable rights are being threatened and restricted? How can one stand “proudly” for the national anthem when they are only standing because their paychecks are being held hostage? How is that not more disrespectful than kneeling during the anthem? How is that not unconstitutional?

 

Comments

  1. Laura Herron says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with this well written, and well thought out article. Taking the knee has nothing to do with disrespecting the flag. I think the POTUS, along with others missed the whole point!! There is no “liberty or Justice for all, but, there is liberty and justice for “some”, just not for minorities.

  2. Linda Eason says:

    Awesome job

  3. Doris McBride says:

    This is really well put together and makes a strong argument! Kneeling is a respectful way to protest and these players are using their positions for make a statement, something many others don’t have the ability to do.

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