Over the last couple of years during football season, a former quarterback from the San Francisco 49ers has made a name for himself. He has gained a lot of attention, both negative and positive from the media and NFL fans, as well as citizens across America. Colin Kaepernick started a trend by kneeling during the national anthem. In August 2016, Kaepernick began sitting on the bench and kneeling on the sidelines during the National Anthem. The concept was supposed to be geared towards police brutality against the black community and racial injustice across the country. The days of people sitting idle and not being heard are behind us as a country. While there are many different opinions on this subject, to some kneeling during the national anthem is wrong and disrespectful, while others believe it is their right as American citizens to protest and express themselves.
The national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key as a poem after he saw the attack on Fort McHenry during the War if 1812. The national anthem has been played at the beginning of several types of sporting events throughout America since the 1800’s. Sporting spectators have seen stood and participated in the singing of the national anthem as a sign of respect and patriotism to America. For those who fought to defend the country’s freedom, it is nothing to be taken for granted.
In an article about NFL players who think that the American people know they aren’t protesting the flag but in fact, protesting law enforcement and Donald Trump, the President of the United States of America, Travis Waldron of The Huffington Post stated that, “48 percent of Americans say NFL players are kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality”. According to an article in the New York Post, the number one cause of African American being killed in America is not by whites or police officers, but by other African Americans. The article also discussed that blacks don’t have to worry about police officers killing them, it’s just the opposite. MacDonald claimed that in 2015, a police officer was 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male was to be killed by a police officer. “Black males have made up 42 percent of all cop-killers over the last decade, though they are only 6 percent of the population. That 18.5 ratio undoubtedly worsened in 2016, in light of the 53 percent increase in gun murders of officers — committed vastly and disproportionately by black males.” MacDonald asserted that their protests are unfounded.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “The First Amendment guarantees our right to free expression and free association, which means that the government does not have the right to forbid us from saying what we like and writing what we like; we can form clubs and organizations, and take part in demonstrations and rallies”. The Constitution of the United States of America allow these protests to take place, even if some feel it is disrespectful. However, the number of fans that objected to kneeling during the national anthem were apparently overwhelming and they wanted their voice heard. The NFL enacted a new rule pertaining to kneeling during the national anthem which seemed to be pushed by President Trump. Rebecca Zissou stated in an article published in Junior Scholastic, “stand and show respect for the flag if they go onto the field during the national anthem—or to remain in the locker room until the song is over”. Team owners seem to agree with the new rule accepting it as a middle ground between the protesters and the patriots. While the new rule seemed to be a peace offering to NFL fans, the ACLU continues to show support for NFL players’ right to kneel or refusing to stand.
People are passionate about the reasons to stand or right to kneel for the National Anthem. One of the pros for kneeling during the national anthem mentions the First Amendment being a form of free speech while quoting Colin Kaepernick who said, “I’m not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” However, a con listed for kneeling during the national anthem in this article explains how the national anthem is basically a form of respect shown to the men and women who have and are still defending America at home and abroad. From the very beginning our country was born, we have lost a devastating amount of men, women, and even children due to keeping our country free and safe from invaders.
Some of the most passionate opposition has come from military veterans, in part because of the dedication to their country. The United States Army has many key values that all soldiers embody. According to the U.S. Army’s website, one of the seven values is respect. “In the Soldier’s Code, we pledge to “treat others with dignity and respect while expecting others to do the same.” Respect is what allows us to appreciate the best in other people.” Likewise, police officers have a similar oath they take when they are enlisted to serve and protect society. The International Association of the Chiefs of Police recommend all oaths of office include, “I will always uphold the constitution, my community, and the agency I serve. Protests against police brutality goes against the code of ethics and their oath to the department and people they serve. Therefore, protesting the National Anthem, something that so many veterans hold near and dear to their heart, in order to protest perceived police brutality seems to be counterproductive.
However, some would argue against just that: the military is protecting the rights of people to protest, even if they are offending those who fought to give them that freedom. The American Soldier along with the American Police Officer are the only people that give so much to people and expect so little in return. An eNotes author describes the flag as standing for the struggles the United States has suffered and those who fought to protect its freedoms. Another author describes the flag as, “A symbol of patriotism…a representation of national pride, it should be respected”. The American Flag stands for freedom and justice. The flag has seen every battle from its inception on June 14, 1777 to the current battle fields of Iraq and Afghanistan. The irony in the entire kneeling debate is that people are upset about disgracing the flag and anthem, but as the Constitution describes those exact freedoms that are granted to them to protest and right to free speech.
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