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United we stand and united we kneel

The right for NFL players to protest

In this recent geopolitical climate, it is difficult to escape the inevitable polarity between liberals and conservatives, making day-to-day life unreasonably tense. Often, people stray away from “getting political” for their own sanity. Perhaps this is why many people are uneasy about the crossover of politics into sports, but it is a crossover that requires conversation, regardless of position on the political spectrum.

Let me preface by admitting that I am, in no shape or form, an avid sports fan. Sure, I will watch an occasional baseball or football game from time-to-time. But, I mainly just attend Super Bowl parties for the taco dip. However, the quality that I find most admirable in people is the ability to advocate for what they believe in, especially if doing so puts them at risk for criticism and ridicule—professionally or socially.

When Colin Kaepernick originally took a stand, or a knee that is, last year, the controversy began. Exercising his right to free speech, he peacefully protested the injustice of police brutality.  Now, with seemingly little progress  in ending police brutality and unfair treatment of many Americans, dozens of other athletes from different teams and sports, have taken a knee in solidarity—they have taken a knee for change.

Athletes from the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Reign FC, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins and many more have joined in on the national anthem protest, according to FoxSports.

As is the case with most protests, the response from viewers has not been pretty. Many prominent athletes have lost a large percentage of their fan base. There have been photos and videos circulating the internet of enraged fans burning jerseys. President Donald Trump even weighed in, tweeting, “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!” I can’t help but to find this anger somewhat humorous, if only as a coping mechanism to deal with the absurdity and embarrassment of our current leader.

In considering global tensions about disaster relief, eminent military attacks and joblessness, our president feels the need to comment on the agenda of football teams. Though I acknowledge that President Trump is voicing his belief that we all have a civic duty to respect the flag, I often find myself disagreeing with him. But, it is important to note what he and others believe the flag stands for.

Those who oppose the kneeling trend believe that it is disrespectful to the flag, a symbol of freedom, and irreverent to veterans who fought for this country. If the American flag truly symbolizes the greatness of a country that allows its citizens to be free, then why are some individuals unjustly stripped of that freedom? Some people argue that this trend dishonors those who fought and died for this country. Perhaps, some Americans need a brief history lesson.

Shamefully, many black Americans died in this country at the hands of intolerant, racist police officers. Even if only one person’s death could be attributed to police brutality, it would still show that America is biased: when a life is taken based on skin  color, there is no equality. Citizens should not have to live in fear in a country that promises and preaches otherwise.

NFL players are kneeling because our flag no longer means that all men are created or treated as equal. Kneeling cannot bring back the victims. It cannot erase the sorrow and grief their families endured. It cannot transform our own president’s opinion. But, it can engender change for our future. Just as we wear pink for breast cancer or puzzle pieces for autism, we take a knee in solidarity and for awareness.

What these athletes are doing is peaceful, especially in comparison  to the demonstrations we saw in Charlottesville or other free speech rallies where many spewed hate and intolerance. These athletes are using their platform, televised sporting events, to silently kneel out of respect to those who wrongfully lost their lives. I will always be an advocate of free speech, even if that means I turn on the television and see displays of bigotry, violence and various forms of hateful supremacy. However, I find no hatred, no prejudice and no vehemence in taking a knee for fellow Americans who have been unlawfully treated and killed.

If disrespecting our anthem is truly the issue, take a look around. Look at the guy at the baseball game, too involved with eating his hotdog to put his hand over his heart when the anthem plays or the high school students who talk through the Pledge of Allegiance. Famous individuals, such as Kaepernick, risk their careers for what they believe to be right, and as a community, we meet this bravery with opposition and judgment.

We are supposed to be the land that accepts the wretched yearning to be free. Our nation prides itself as being moral and good. Yet, we the people of the United States do not stand united for all men. Until we all stand for what is right, some of us will have to kneel.

About the author

Karleigh Lopez

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