Various U.S. athletes in various sports, namely the NFL, have used the exposure they have to television audiences recently to kneel or, in some cases, raise a fist, during the national anthem to show their disdain with our nation’s racial inequality. ESPN, which reports weekly on who in the NFL protests during the anthem, sums up the situation’s origins well:
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the pregame protest of racial oppression and inequality in the United States last season by sitting during the national anthem before a preseason game, then kneeling during the anthem throughout the season.
Since his protests, Kaepernick has been released by the 49ers—my favorite team of all teams that have ever existed, by the way—and though he led the team to the Super Bowl just a few years ago, he finds himself unemployed, some of which could have to do with his kneeling. His play struggled in more recent games with the 49ers, which also probably has some teams leery of acquiring him. Other players, though, continue to kneel.
Some say the kneeling is disrespectful to the national anthem and what America represents. Others say the protests are in line with Americans having the right to speak their mind. Here’s what I think:
- The kneeling/protesting is nonviolent. Those players aren’t hurting anyone. The ones who stand aren’t reacting violently to those who kneel, at least that I know of, either. The overall nonviolence sets a positive example for fans, especially the younger ones.
- Those who kneel probably don’t hate America or the national anthem. Those who stand likely aren’t ignoring racial inequality, either. I think it’s important to note that. I don’t think kneelers want to be pitted against standers, or vice versa, too.
- Whether kneeling or standing, it’s my guess that athletes don’t mean any disrespect to veterans or active service members of the U.S. military. Some critics have accused players who protest of disrespecting the armed forces.
- The most important thing that has come out of the protests is that more Americans are hopefully thinking about and talking about racial inequality. Whatever your stance is on the protests, I don’t think anyone can argue that exchanging such dialogue—peacefully and respectfully—is a bad thing. My hope is that more Americans are learning about each other and gaining empathy. It doesn’t get more American than that!