Point for Discussion:
Over the past year, several athletes and cheerleaders have “taken a knee” in protest. What started out as a personal protest by Colin Kaepernick in 2017 has become part of a movement. For some, it’s about social injustices, and for others, it’s become more about freedom of speech. Whatever the intention, there is debate about the outcome. Is kneeling a personal expression, or is it an act of disrespect for our Country? Perhaps it is both. Perhaps it is more.
Our Points of View:
Like many people, I consider myself to be patriotic, and with these beliefs are certain expectations. These include respect for our Country, our flag, and the service men and women who fight for them. It also includes expectations for equal opportunity and equal respect.
When I see recent and continuing stories about groups kneeling, it actually makes me angry. I’m angry that the person kneeling feels this is best way to express their concerns for social injustices. I’m angry that they feel they must do this during the National Anthem. I’m angry that actions are not taken to avoid disrespecting those to whom we owe great respect.
I bet it is not the intention of the players and cheerleaders to disrespect veterans and patriotic Americans, but it is one unintended outcome, and we need a better way to express dissatisfaction and frustration with social injustices.
While kneeling and sit-ins, and other forms of protest, are an important and effective part of our history, it is the fact that this kneeling is done during the National Anthem that sparks outrage among many.
I am, of course, a supporter of free speech. It’s at the heart of my entire career in asking people what they think, feel and believe. But not so free that it disrespects our Country and the people who fight for our freedom. As a nation, we must address police brutality and racial inequities, but we must find other ways to address these than disrespecting the flag, which is a symbol of the equality that everyone actually wants. It’s part of what provided the opportunity to play football (or cheer it on). It’s a contradiction between being afforded the opportunity to play football in America and disrespecting the flag that is a symbol of equal opportunity.
So how can concern for these social injustices be expressed and addressed? That’s a bigger issue than this simple blog, but there are ways to address the current situation as it relates to football. For example, the NFL could have made a logical decision to play the National Anthem after people are seated, but before bringing out the team players in celebration of the game to be played. If players would like to kneel, they can do it in the locker room…but not out in public where others will be required to see this act of disrespect when the National Anthem is played. And it should be all or nothing – all players should remain in the locker room until they are called out to play. Players shouldn’t be fired for kneeling, as President Trump was attempting. They should be prevented from kneeling in public in the first place by removing the pre-game opportunity during the National Anthem. They (and all of us) should then use our collective energies to find solutions to these very real problems that face our nation.
Is protesting disrespectful? I don’t think so. Citizens protest to make a point and effect change in situations that they believe are unfair or wrong in some way. Protesting is one of our constitutional rights, and the right to protest should not be taken away from us as long as the protests are peaceful. And if a protest is not visible, how will that promote change? Staying in the locker room will not change anything. It will continue to hide the injustices that were the cause of the protest to begin with.
Our founding fathers came to America to escape tyranny in other nations. They felt persecuted for their religious beliefs, felt they were supporting a government they didn’t buy into, and wanted a place where they could have more control over their lives, thoughts and future. These are the same reasons immigrants come to America today.
One of the privileges of being a citizen is that we have the right to protest real or perceived injustices. Who am I to tell someone that what they feel is not true, or worse, that they can’t be protesting to make their feelings known (peacefully of course)?
Let’s all take a step back here. Colin Kaepernick began this protest in support of something he feels very strongly about, bias and unfair treatment against African-Americans by those that should be serving and protecting all of us. For a country founded on equality and personal freedoms of religion and speech among others, we do a very good job of judging everyone and telling them they are wrong. This has been going on since the first settlers arrived in America. Sure it would be better if we didn’t need to protest, but we should be able to peacefully protest, if it is deemed to be necessary.
So back to the issue here. There are many, including Laurie, that are offended by the choice of kneeling during the national anthem as their protest. I struggle with this. I am not sure I see it as disrespectful to the flag. We have all stood for the anthem at sporting events because we are asked to do so. I’ll be honest here. I don’t stand for the anthem when I’m watching the game at home. I do stop what I’m doing during the anthem and show reverence and awareness of the great privilege of living in America.
While the players are kneeling, in protest of injustice, they are still participating. They are not showing the level of disrespect that the President and many others are accusing them of. These peaceful protesters are not ignoring the anthem and the flag by going about other business during the anthem. There is a purpose in the protest. Who is hurt by this? Protesting will stop when the injustice has been resolved.
Our President, who believes he is the biggest patriot on the planet, shows disrespect to many people everyday. And one could argue that does not always do this peacefully. It seems as if he revels in disrupting and drawing attention to himself and what he believes is important at the moment. Why is he entitled to do this while he believes NFL players should be punished?
Let’s take this one step further (since I can’t stop myself now). I am seriously offended by the President preaching about how political correctness is just bad. And especially about how he wants to bring religion back to government and schools. How can he say that kneeling, peacefully protesting, is more disrespectful to America and Americans than his personal preaching about the ability to say Merry Christmas rather than Happy Holidays? America is a melting pot of backgrounds. It’s one of the things that makes our nation great. He can say Merry Christmas to anyone he wants, but not to me. I am not Christian and would appreciate deference on that issue. When I say Happy Holidays to someone, it is because I am unaware of their personal beliefs and I don’t wish to offend by getting it wrong. It’s not a shattering of our society and all we believe in – it’s a show of respect to pass on good wishes without offending.
Colin Kaepernick’s protest is similar. He is making a point very clearly and has been persecuted for his peaceful protest. He has not said he hates America or the flag. He has clearly stated that he feels there is an injustice that must be fixed. He is present and protesting on the sidelines. Clearly he touched a nerve because many of his peers and colleagues have joined him in this protest. For the President to get involved in this appears to be an attempt to change the narrative. That isn’t going to solve the problem, which is a clear disrespect for African-Americans by our law enforcement officers.
Would we prefer another type of protest like that in Charlottesville last year? I don’t think so. Let’s truly make America great again by treating each other with respect. Why is that so hard to do?
Our Question for You:
Can kneeling in protest work in addressing key issues? What additional (or other) actions could bring about change?