Kneeling to Take a Stand

Payton Woodruff, Staff Reporter

In the past year, a very public form of protest has sparked controversy all over the nation.

It began with the simple action of taking a knee during the “The Star Spangled Banner” by San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, which soon turned into heated debates between fans and fellow Americans. Is kneeling, or protesting in general, during the national anthem a form of blatant disrespect to the land of the free and the home of the brave? Or, is it a peaceful and public outcry for a stop to the injustice and prejudice going on in a country who promises equality?

Many know about Colin Kaepernick and know about when he first began kneeling during the national anthem in the final pre season game of the 2016 football season. He wanted to draw attention to police brutality and the injustice happening towards black Americans. He explained to the press, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” His protest soon inspired many other athletes, NFL and more, to take a stand and protest during the national anthem, whether it included staying seated, kneeling, or raising fists in a power salute. At first, the protests got mixed feedback. Opposers view the national anthem as a showing to pride and patriotism for the country and especially for those veterans who serve.

However, what many don’t know is that before Kaepernick began kneeling and before the press were involved, he sat during the anthem. What made him switch to kneeling in the final pre season game was, in fact, speaking with a veteran of the Green Beret/US Special Forces, Nate Boyer.

When Boyer saw Kaepernick seated he was inspired to write a letter that explained his view on the protest and how it angered him. Soon, the two got together to speak about the issues in America and involving the anthem. They came to an agreement where Kaepernick would kneel and Boyer would stand beside showing solidarity. “We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee along his teammates,” said Boyer, “Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect.”

Knowing the background of how the national anthem protests started is very important to understand, especially when the leader of our country decides to match these peaceful and respectful demonstrations with small minded retorts and ignorance.

During one of his campaign rallies in Alabama, President Trump addressed the subject saying, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘Get that son of a b**** off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired.”

I am sorry, Mr. Trump, but it is not disrespectful to stand up for issues that should not exist: police brutality and discrimination. Statistics prove that one is nearly three times more likely to get killed by police force if black rather than white.That is a problem. Furthermore, according to a continual study done by the Washington Post, in 2015, of all the unarmed shootings, 40 percent of the victims were black males, a population that only takes up 6 percent of America.That is a problem.

Trump can not and will not ever be able to empathise with these situations because white people have never been oppressed simply due to the color of their skin. They have never had to deal with discrimination or fear towards the people who are protecting them. This is why Trump needs recognize that these demonstrations are an outcry for justice. He needs to listen to the issues going on and do something to change them, rather than deflect with insults.

Kneeling during the national anthem is one of the most peaceful ways to protest and it also creates a good platform to spread awareness. These professional athletes are using their notoriety to try and make a difference on an issue they are passionate about. Even those athletes standing alongside in solidarity are trying to make some social progress, and they have every right to do so.

By shaming these peaceful demonstrations we are furthering the divide in our country. In reality, the only thing that will save us is coming together and addressing problems that cannot be hidden or pushed to the back burner any longer. It is time to take a stand for what you believe in and stop ridiculing those who are trying to make a difference in this country.