NFL Protests; A Movement Towards Change
At a preseason game on August 26, 2016, then San Francisco 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick was first noticed sitting down during the playing of the national anthem. This created a storm of confusion, which along came questions, most of which Kaepernick was happy to answer. Despite military affiliated accusations, he sat to express his concerns of racial oppression and police brutality. What triggered this act was a series of unlawful murders of black men back in 2015 and 2016 that broke news about modern day racism. African Americans such as Philando Castile, Terence Crutcher, and Eric Garner were wrongfully killed by the people who were supposed to be protecting them the most: the police. Kaepernick could not let this go unnoticed. He sat for them, and he sits for everyone at risk of being racially victimized.
Dealing with some controversial backlash, Kaepernick and his teammate Eric Reid met up with Nate Boyer, a former Seattle Seahawks snapper and Army Green Beret, to discuss the future of these protests. Kaepernick relayed their conversation in an interview with ESPN back in September of 2016.
“We were talking to him about how can we get the message back on track and not take away from the military, not take away from pride in our country but keep the focus on what the issues really are,” he said. “As we talked about it, we came up with taking a knee because there are issues that still need to be addressed and there was also a way to show more respect for the men and women that fight for this country.”
Still even after this statement was released, negative commentary regarding the league and these protests continues to overshadow the positive. I’ve considered both angles, and I can’t help but be in support of Kaepernick and his movement. I strongly believe that once the public understands the true reason behind these protests, they will be in support of them, too.
The dozens of players who kneel are not protesting America’s national anthem. They’re protesting the fact that the national anthem doesn’t apply to everyone in our country. Not everyone can call America the “land of the free” when they don’t share the same rights and privileges as everybody else. When skin color determines treatment, freedom is scarce.
Misconceptions surrounding the purpose of these protests have been swirling around the media, creating a hurricane of fake news. Fueling the fire is President Trump. “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race,” he tweeted on September 25, 2017. “It is about respect for our country, flag and national anthem.”
Players involved in the protests couldn’t disagree more. Kneeling has everything to do with race. It is the catalyst that sparked this entire movement. If we already had social equality in America, then perhaps the protests could be considered a disgrace to the flag and a blow on patriotism, however, that is simply not the case. I have the utmost respect for our country and the people that fight to keep it safe, but we are far from being a perfect nation. Among our many flaws is racism and the social injustices that come along with it. Something needs to be done to fix that, and I believe demonstrations such as these are the answer.
Many critics are using the wrong place at the wrong time argument, claiming that the football field is an inappropriate place to practice their freedom of protest. This is preposterous to me. There should never be restrictions placed on a people telling them when they’re supposed to use their rights and when they’re not. I think there is no better stage than a football stadium to host these demonstrations. Americans worship the NFL, with 15.8 million people alone who tuned into the games within the first three weeks of the 2017 season. With coverage like this, why not take two minutes before play time to make a difference. An outlet as powerful as the NFL should not only allow but also encourage its players to stand up for something real and important. If it’s something like this that speaks to Americans and makes an impact, then there should be no problem. We’re simply killing two birds with one stone.
The intentions of these protests are to shine a much-needed light on racial inequality, nothing more and nothing less. The players aren’t taking anything away from football. Instead, they’re embracing an opportunity to speak morals while entertaining the rest of America who is ironically causing them to do so in the first place.