A Project for Better Journalism chapter

Opinion: Kneeling

Ever since Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem in the preseason last year, the NFL has been filled with controversy surrounding this bold action. Sports, which are usually used to distract us from the problematic things going on in this country, are now being used as a platform to discuss an issue that has yet to find a solution. By kneeling, sitting, locking arms, and even refusing to come out before the game, many of the players of the NFL have made their point on our country’s situation.

There were some players who did stand during the anthem, including former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, who plays offensive tackle for the Steelers, as well as various coaching staff around the league. They created a voice for those who have not had a voice in the past. Even if you disagree with what they are saying, you still have to respect them, because it is their constitutional right. When President Trump commented on those who protested and what should be done about them, he attacked their first amendment rights.

By kneeling and locking arms with each other and many owners, they have created a mecca of political defiance in the NFL. These players are mostly unpunished for their protests, as they should be, but in NASCAR many of the team owners are threatening to fire any racer that refuses to stand for the anthem. By threatening these racers, the owners are consequently interfering with their personal rights as Americans. What these athletes did was not the issue. It was how they were treated. They have a right to protest, even if it is slightly unpatriotic. They are guaranteed the right to protest, and denying it breaks one of the founding values of this country.

The flag itself is only a symbol of our country. What matters most are the rights that this country was founded on. In my opinion it is wrong to burn the flag or stomp on it, but I cannot get mad, because people have the right to do it. The kneeling bothers me even less. It is a great example of peaceful protest in this country. These players are simply protesting what they feel is wrong. However, due to the fact that the issues they bring to light are extremely controversial in the US, the players are being put on the bench when they should be starting. It is sad that politics has to be brought into sports, especially since they make some believe it is right to deny players of their rights.