One of the biggest controversies of 2016 was when star quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers Collin Kaepernick Knelt during the playing of the National Anthem during three preseason football games during the NFL season. America was outraged. Many thought that Kaepernick was showing his country the most disrespect out of anyone in the entire planet at the time. I’ll admit, I will be the first to tell you that I was outraged at what he did in front of millions of people. But, after thinking about it and doing some research, Kaepernick was only trying to make us open our eyes and see that our country was falling apart, even when we didn’t want to realize it.
According to loc.gov, “The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the United States Congress from enacting legislation that would abridge the right of the people to assemble peaceably.” This is something that I never thought about once I knew of Kaepernick’s decision to kneel. He had every right to do what he did. The reason behind his kneeling was due to the police brutality that was going on in the country at that moment. In my opinion, I do not and still don’t agree with what was happening with the police killing innocent people that were mainly of African American decent. I didn’t take into consideration that that was also what he was standing for when kneeling. He wasn’t disrespecting our flag and the freedoms it represented. The point he was trying to make was that he wasn’t going to stand for a song that acclaimed to be about a country that was home to “the land of the free and home of the brave” when innocent people at the time were being shot by police officers who were supposed to be protecting American citizens.
During our discussion in class, a fellow classmate brought up the instance of Denver Bronco football player Brandon Marshall doing the same thing during a game last season. Marshall actually met with a Denver police chief. In an article done by the Denver Post, it stated
“For nearly an hour inside the Denver police administration building Tuesday, the Broncos linebacker met with Chief Robert White, peppering him with questions about local law enforcement, about recent incidents of police brutality nationwide, about officer-training methods, and about how, why and when police officers do what they do.
White provided as many answers as he could. Then he reciprocated Marshall’s list of questions with a list of suggestions, specifically ways Marshall can work with the police department to effect change and fight racial injustices in local communities and beyond.”
Another classmate of mine stated the question of “Why couldn’t couldn’t Kaepernick do the same?” A very good question to pose, but I do however believe that Kaepernick did what he did to make a statement. As soon as Americans started to notice him kneeling game after game, we started to take interest into why he was kneeling and what his exact reasoning behind it was. More and more players and teams started to support Kaepernick’s decision and decided to follow in his footsteps. It even became a nation wide thing, varying in sporting events from professional soccer games to high school basketball games.
An interesting fact that I found out tonight was that Kaepernick’s controversy wasn’t the only “flag deferring” situation to happen in America. 20 years ago, NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (born Christ Jackson) refused to stand for the National Anthem because of religious beliefs. He believed that the flag represented oppression and he didn’t want to be viewed as supporting it. In 2003, D3 Women’s basketball player Toni Smith faced away from the flag to protest America’s involvement in an Iraqi war.
These people have done nothing wrong in exercising their rights as American citizens to stand up for what they believe in in our country. Many people in our country have came at these people with backlash because they said that these athletes are disrespecting the men and women that have fought for our freedom to live in America today. That’s the catch.
The men and women overseas are not only fighting for us to live freely in America, but they have also fought for us as U.S citizens to have the rights in our country to be able to protest freely, to believe in whatever religion we choose, and to be able to have freedom of speech whenever we’d like. They were not disrespecting our flag whatsoever. The flag does not have one specific definition to our country as a whole. These athletes were raising awareness as to why our country is falling apart and how we need to come together and figure out how to change it.
I personally believe that because of our freedoms in America, athletes should not be required to stand for the National Anthem. They have the right to do whatever they want and choose to act upon whatever they feel. That’s the reason why we have the First Amendment in the first place.