NFL Player Protests Necessary, Effective

Rachel Szymanski, Staff Writer

Former 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a stand against police brutality and racial discrimination by sitting during the national anthem at the August 26, 2016 game against the Green Bay Packers. By sitting during the national anthem, he ignited a national conversation.

Sitting or kneeling during the anthem is not an act of disrespect. These acts are intended to draw attention to the unfortunate reality that African Americans are likelier to be shot by police than are white Americans.

According to the Washington Post, 815 people have been shot and killed by police in 2017, and of those people, 191 were black. These protests confront the deeply-ingrained cultural racism that is revealed by this statistical disparity.

Kneeling does not insult those who have risked their lives to serve our country, as President Trump and other Republicans have suggested. Kneeling is an act of solidarity for American citizens who have faced systematic racial oppression, and a demonstration of the very freedom those purportedly ‘disrespected’ vets fought to protect.

According to NFL media reporter Steve Wyche, Kaepernick has refused to stand during the national anthem to protest the injustices assailed against people of color in the United States. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” said Kaepernick in a statement to NFL Media.

Players like Kaepernick are taking it upon themselves to advocate for all those who are being treated unfairly.

Now, over a year later, not only have other NFL players knelt, but some have sat and even stretched during the playing of the national anthem. Other teams around the league have decided not to stand on the field during the national anthem and instead stay in the locker room.

Before the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans game on Sunday, September 24, both teams remained in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem. “As a team, we have decided we will not participate in the national anthem. We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country,” the Seahawks said in a statement released to the press.

On September 25, before a game between the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals, both teams – including Cowboys owner Jerry Jones – joined together in unity by locking arms and standing for the national anthem.

Prior to the game, President Trump had tweeted his support for a new rule that wouldn’t allow players to kneel. Such a rule would be a violation of the First Amendment.

Neither Trump nor the NFL can compel players to end their protest. If Trump wishes the kneeling to end, he should do something to end the racial inequality for which they are refusing to stand.

Though it may be impossible to end racism, full-stop, our president should speak out against rather than condone such a hideous cultural institution. Whether or not players should be allowed to raise their voices on the field is not a political question however; It’s a Constitutional right.

Trump himself has demonstrated the power of these protests by acknowledging the issue in his tweets. Even though he dislikes the method of protest, the very fact Trump has made statements about it shows the effectiveness of the players’ actions.

We should support those brave enough to take a stand in the face of such misguided opposition; these athletes are fighting for  the fundamental rights of citizens, as brave Americans have throughout our country’s history.

In the 1968 olympics, African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos held up their fists during their medal ceremony. They believed that athletes are well within their rights to protest inequality, especially when they have the public platform to do so effectively.

31 years later, the athletes find themselves in a similar position.

This time around, all of America should listen.