Opinion: The reason for kneeling

By Shelby Hilton— 

Sports Editor

During the 2016 NFL preseason, Colin Kaepernick and fellow teammates at the time made the bold decision to kneel during the national anthem as a peaceful form of protest. Their protest gained national attention, resulted in outrage among Americans, and led to an enormous backlash that landed predominantly on Kaepernick. Outraged, many fans filled social media with hateful comments and even threatened to boycott the NFL. 

As seen in the present day 2017 NFL season, entire teams are protesting racism and police brutality by joining together in locked arms while kneeling. 

What many people refuse to acknowledge is the purpose of kneeling during the anthem — to protest oppression against people of color, police brutality, and the criminal justice system.

As San Francisco 49er, Eric Reid, said in a column published by The New York Times: “We could use our platform, provided to us by being professional athletes in the N.F.L., to speak for those who are voiceless.” 

In 2016, Kaepernick was asked to explain his position, to which he told NFL.com’s Steve Wyche, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” 

With the guidance of retired Green Beret and former NFL player Nate Boyer, Kaepernick came to the conclusion to kneel rather than sit during the anthem as a respectful gesture. 

The decision to kneel, lock arms or even not participate in the national anthem should not be construed as disrespectful to our country, flag or military personnel. Despite the negative attention the NFL is receiving for their actions, these players and teams are simply exercising their First Amendment right. 

According to mappingpoliceviolence.org, police have killed approximately 210 black people in the U.S. in 2017. The website declares, “It’s not about crime,” saying that “Fewer than 1 of 3 black people killed by police in America in 2014 were suspected of a violent crime and allegedly armed.” There is also a lack of accountability for the police officers, “99% of cases in 2015 have not resulted in any officer(s) involved being convicted of a crime.” Police brutality towards people of color is an ongoing issue that has resulted in little justice even now in 2017.  

Some Americans have viewed these recent protest as disrespectful to the country, and to the men and women who fight for our rights, which is understandable. Being an American is a great privilege that agreeably should not be taken for granted.   

Even President Donald Trump proclaimed his animosity against the protest. 

“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast,” Trump tweeted. “Fire or suspend!” 

It is in our First Amendment rights to peacefully protest. Doing so during the National Anthem has struck a nerve for many Americans. Standing and paying tribute to the National Anthem is a great honor that, unfortunately, some military heroes can no longer do. Life-long fans are lashing out on social media and television ratings have fallen due to several fans pledging to stop watching the NFL until players stop kneeling. 

The purpose of the protest is to make an impact on America about the issues going on with police brutality and the matter of racism. Those who feel as though they don’t have a voice on these issues are getting the chance to be heard through these professional athletes in a form of solidarity. This simple, yet powerful gesture means so much more than what some Americans are interpreting from it all.


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