It all began on August 26, 2016.
That’s when the San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick’s began kneeling for the National Anthem.
A photo of the All-Pro quarterback was shot of him kneeling.
His reason? He didn’t want to stand for a country that oppresses people of color.
More than a year later, during a time where the United States is in a state of political upheaval, President Donald Trump managed to reignite a controversy that had begun to die out.
While speaking at a rally for Alabama Republican Senate Candidate Luther Strange in late September of this year, Trump criticized those National Football League players who kneel for the National Anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump stated.
The following Sunday, more than 200 NFL players responded by participating in protests, including kneeling for the National Anthem.
Currently, the NFL policy simply asks players to stand for the anthem, as there is no forced requirement to do so. So far, no punishments have been handed out to players participating in protests by the NFL.
The NFL even rebuked Trump’s comments calling for the firing of players.
At Calumet College of St. Joseph, the mission of every student is to live a life “dedicated to service and rooted in the Catholic tradition of social justice.”
The protests by NFL players have been acted out a call for social justice behind the oppression of minorities and people of color.
“I have no problem with the NFL players protesting against the National Anthem, even though I was raised to stand for it and support it for those who have served for our country, individuals also have the right to free speech and if they feel that this form of protest is helping the cause they are trying to fight for, then more power to them,”
said Nicco Vicari, Student Government Vice President at CCSJ.
The biggest concern behind this protest is that many believe that kneeling during the national anthem is disrespectful to the foundations that stand behind the flag and to those that have fought hard to for the right for someone to kneel.
The NFL is a private governing body that has control over its employees–including players. Therefore, the NFL can legally infringe on a player’s freedom of speech and their ability to protest.
“I think the NFL also has the right to do whatever they deem to be acceptable for their organization, at the end of the day, the NFL is the governing body of the rules and regulations so they have the right to punish accordingly,” says Vicari.
CCSJ Social Justice Professor Elizabeth Stewart says protesting players are simply exercising their fundamental rights.
“NFL players are using the best platform they have to raise awareness regarding the mistreatment of minorities and police brutality towards African Americans in this country. They have the maximum audience possible and are mostly unified in either kneeling or showing some other sign of solidarity with those who are kneeling — as for example, linking arms…they are using non-violent means to promote their cause,” Stewart says.
There are veterans and active military members who are on both sides of the issue. Some believe it is disrespectful to have risked their lives to have their flag treated in that manner, others believe that it is their given American right to do so and is what they fought for.
The National Basketball Association’s policy currently states that players must stand for the anthem. The NFL is considering revising its policy to follow a similar route.
However, there is concern if the NFL follows through with this policy change.
If players are forced to stand for the anthem, are they truly patriotic or are they being forced to be patriotic?
“Standing for the national anthem is a tradition but it really says nothing about one’s patriotism. Often, the real patriots are those who break with tradition and use civil disobedience to draw attention to systemic injustice. It is easy to place one’s hand on one’s heart and sing, but it is much tougher to treat our fellow humans with compassion and dignity and to demand a just society. Standing for the national anthem is often nothing more than an act of conformity while kneeling can be a conscious choice and a sign of reverence,” Stewart says.
For now, the NFL’s policy remains encouraging players to stand for the anthem. If the NFL does change its policy, it’s possible that because of the controversy surrounding this protest it’ll encourage many other private business to create similar ‘patriotic’ policies.
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