Kneeling is an Effective Means of Protest

by Chris Kuang

For the past year, Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem has been a hotbed of controversy; the nation has heard all the criticism that has bombarded Colin Kaepernick for his kneeling in protest of the treatment of African Americans by law enforcement. Many critics say he’s disrespecting the men and women who have fought for the nation’s freedom or that he is disrespecting the America’s heritage. Yet although kneeling may be an imperfect method of protest, what other means could Kaepernick have used to express his opinion in a way that it would be widely discussed and continue to promote conversation?

Professional athletes are constantly speaking out against the injustices faced by African-Americans such as the frequent, controversial killings of black men by police officers. For example, Kaepernick cited the death of Alton Sterling by the hand of a police officer in Baton Rouge, LA in the summer of 2016 as one of the many incidents that prompted him to protest. However, usually athletes’ comments grace headlines for a day–maybe two if they are lucky–before being swept away by another headline. Remember when LeBron James, largely considered to be one of the best basketball players in the world, along with Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade used the ESPY Awards to denounce police violence in America? You probably don’t. America certainly didn’t. Kaepernick, although a talented football quarterback, carries nowhere near the influence of Lebron James; yet still, a year later, the media still fills their headlines with opinions on Kaepernick related controversies while Lebron James’s comments are long forgotten. With the NFL controlling a whole day every weekend–Sunday–the nation was and still is constantly reminded of Kaepernick’s protest.

In regards to the military, there is no clear connection between kneeling during the national anthem and disrespecting members of the military. In fact, if anything, members of the military fight to protect the rights of all citizens so that Americans at home may have the freedom promised to them by the nation’s founders. It is engrained in their enrollment oath, “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The ideals promoted by NFL players who kneel during the national anthem are exactly the same: freedom for all. The Constitution that the military is sworn to protect includes the right to voice one’s opinion under the First Amendment; a right that Kaepernick has clearly exercised. In this manner, Kaepernick is truly honoring his rights as  an American citizen, not being a disrespectful citizen.

Kaepernick’s kneeling along with the many subsequent player protests throughout the National Football League (NFL) highlight the hypocrisy of the NFL. Immediately after Kaepernick first took a knee in August of 2016, league owners erupted with disbelief, citing his disrespect toward the nation. Then, in the offseason, when Kaepernick opted to become a free agent, owners fervently denied Kaepernick a job even when faced with the prospect of signing an inferior quarterback. For example, the Miami Dolphins–when tasked with finding a replacement for their starting quarterback who suffered a season-ending knee injury–chose Jay Cutler, who made the playoffs once in 2010, over Kaepernick, who has Super Bowl experience. However, after President Trump proclaimed that NFL owners should “get that son of a bitch off the field right now” when addressing the issue of Kaepernick’s kneeling, the same owners who kept Kaepernick out of a job rose up in “unity” to denounce Trump’s comments about the very person who they scrutinized so heavily just a year prior. In this wave of hypocrisy, the original intent of Kaepernick’s kneeling (protesting injustices faced by African Americans) was lost to the controversy between the NFL and Trump.

With sports being such a prominent platform in America, NFL players kneeling not only highlights the power that professional athletes hold, but also the power of the media itself. Kaepernick never intended for his protests to turn into a “fight” between NFL and Trump–a story that the media was quick to latch onto. Instead, Kaepernick was merely trying to raise awareness about the injustices faced by minorities which is an unfortunate and often forgotten reality in America. Despite a whole year having passed since Kaepernick’s initial protest, the platform still remains visible, calling attention issues that are too often hidden.

Kneeling Disrespects American Values

by Hannah Cheves

The issue of the NFL protests, beginning with Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem, has been gracing covers of major news outlets was each debates whether or not he has the right to kneel. There can be no denying that the NFL players’ right to kneel is covered by the Constitution. However, while not illegal, kneeling is fundamentally hypocritical and disrespectful to many in the United States.

Kaepernick has been kneeling since before the 2016 election, which many have pointed to in defense of the protests. He has stated that the reason he kneels is because he will not “show pride for a country that oppresses black people and people of color”. Yet how can Kaepernick kneel against oppression when he stepped out in public with a shirt with the face of Fidel Castro, who was known for oppressing the people of Cuba for decades? While he later stated he was only wearing it for “universal education and healthcare,” there was certainly a better way to voice his views than through a dead despot.

Even if the protests are not about the flag or the national anthem, you cannot blame people for thinking that they are, when the kneeling only happens during that time. The American flag means so much to many families and veterans across the country. Yet when the players kneel, it appears to many as though the athletes are directly disrespecting the sacrifices of the many people who believe the flag stands for American ideals worth dying for. This harms the player’s cause as well; the time that they kneel veils their actual cause to the majority of average American viewers. The discussion that they want to start will not start while so many people are angry.

Though the NFL has recently come out in support of Kaepernick and other players who have been kneeling, the league seems to have no true allegiances, since they criticized Kaepernick when it suited them but supported the players when it was convenient. The league also was noticeably silent when over 15 players were accused of assault; they never fired all of the players or paid any attention to the victims.

The NFL players who kneel are paid millions of dollars a year. This country has given them the life so many want, so why kneel? If they want to bring attention to an issue or ultimately create real change, they should be using the millions that they earn to do that. But they should not kneel during a time to honor the flag and the country that means so much to so many.  If they are worried about police brutality, they ought to give money to underfunded, understaffed, and undertrained police departments, or create community groups to raise awareness and galvanize change. They could also donate to the families of victims of police brutality. Kneeling may be constitutional, but it is ultimately ineffective.

 

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