Football Player’s National Anthem Protests Gain Momentum and Critics

By Grant Smith, National News Writer

Beginning on August 26, Colin Kaepernick of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers has been exercising his First Amendment right of freedom of expression by kneeling during the national anthem during the 49ers’ preseason and its regular season football games.

He explained his demonstrations to the NFL Media, saying, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Kaepernick seeks to show by his protests that this country oppresses black people and people of color.

The validity of his physical actions aside, the U.S. Census Bureau Report on Poverty and Income has found that black people make 59 cents to the dollar of white people, and poverty among black Americans is 24.1percent, while only 9.1percent of white Americans experience similar levels of poverty. Both ratios have seen little statistically significant change since 1972.

Recently, according to the BBC, athletes of all ages and sports are beginning to join in Kaepernick’s form of protest.

The Beaumont Bulls, a youth football team of 11- and 12-year-old boys in Texas kneel in unison while the “Star Spangled Banner” plays prior to their games.

Kaepernick himself attended an Oakland, California high school football game on Friday and spoke with the players before kneeling as the students laid on their backs with raised hands.

Controversy is not new to Kaepernick in his career, though recently it has erupted over the football player’s demonstrations, with many saying his protest disrespects the combat veterans who have fought and sacrificed for the same flag that Kaepernick refuses to simply stand up for.

Many are echoing the opinions of actress Kate Upton, who posted a photo on Instagram last week of several kneeling players from the Miami Dolphins.  Upton and many critics react to the protests encouraging individuals to speak their minds, but that Americans should support the people who protect our freedom during “the nearly two minutes [that the anthem] is playing.”

The protest has even warranted commentary from the presidential race with Republican nominee Donald Trump saying, “I think it’s a terrible thing, and you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him.”

Multiple veterans have come forward to defend Kaepernick and his actions, according to The Huffington Post and other news outlets. Kaepernick himself said, “I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country.”

It is an interesting to consider when the flag came to strongly symbolize combat veterans of the United States and not the holistic institution of the United States itself. There is not at any point in the oath of military service a mention of the flag, the veterans do not fight for a piece of cloth and the song that accompanies it, but for the rights and freedoms that it represents.   

Protests and riots continue to rage over killings of unarmed black citizens at the hands of oft-acquitted policemen.

The “Star Spangled Banner” itself in the third verse references the killing of African slaves, containing the phrase, “no refuge could save the hireling and slave, from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.”

While protesting does cause a certain level of commotion, it is mindful to remember a few words from former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”  

Whether by protest or by other means, action is necessary as 43 years lacking progress can attest, justice has been too long delayed.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 27th print edition.

Contact Grant at

grant.smith@student.shu.edu

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