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Taking a Knee

Love Lundy, Writer

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For now, the NFL owners will continue to allow players to kneel as an act of protest.

President Donald Trump came to Huntsville to campaign for Luther Strange, a Republican primary candidate. During his speech, he attacked NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem, tweeting that the behavior was “not acceptable.”  Trump tweeted upwards of 10 times over that weekend, expressing his annoyance with players. Trump tweeted, “Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy!”

Julius Thomas, a tight end for the Miami Dolphins, said that he kneeled because he wanted to use his platform for those who cannot voice their opinions to so many at once. “I used my position to try to empower everybody who seeks equality,” Thomas commented.

Taking a knee during the national anthem before NFL games became a hot topic when Colin Kaepernick and fellow San Fransisco 49er Eric Reid kneeled during the national anthem. Initially, Kaepernick sat during the national anthem, but after a discussion with veteran and retired football player Nate Boyer, he and Reid understood that it was more respectful to kneel.

Kaepernick explained his kneeling in an interview from August 2016. “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.”

Along with his kneeling, Kaepernick pledged to donate (and inspired the San Fransisco 49ers to match his donation) a total of upwards of $2 million to organizations that help communities in need and that work towards the causes he has been kneeling for.

Over 200 NFL players have protested in some way, shape, or form, since the comments made by Trump, in which he encouraged NFL team owners to fire players who did not stand during the anthem. The methods in which players have protested now include staying inside the teams’ locker room during the playing of the anthem (which is breaking a rule enforced by the NFL since 2009), linking arms with other players, sitting or kneeling, or raising a fist. However, these protests have been viewed more as a response to President Trump’s comments towards NFL players, which they feel is an attack geared towards African-American athletes using freedom of speech while he (arguably) called white supremacists “very fine people” as a reaction to the Charlottesville riots. Some players have used their protest as an opportunity to exercise their right to freedom of speech and freedom to protest, as given under the Constitution.

The controversy around this topic comes where NFL fans and other American citizens are trying to decide whether or not kneeling during the national anthem is disrespectful.

Mr. Craft, our drama teacher and the son of a man who served in the military for 23 years, understands why veterans may feel disrespected, but he also understood the other viewpoint. He said, “Symbolism should not trump individuality.” He believes that elevating what has been perceived as a sacred symbol in America (the flag, the anthem, etc.) over people’s ‘genuine and legitimate’ concerns for the well-being of the country shows the beginning signs of a totalitarian society like 1930s Germany. “I think that there are other ways to protest that are more effective. Yeah, you’ve got the national spotlight, but there are other ways to protest that might be more effective. At the end of the day, what do they want to change? What they want to change is for police to be held accountable for acts of brutality.” He also added that football players are employees and should respect owners’ wishes.

Ms. Husky, whose entire family served in the military, also thinks that there are other ways to protest. “I think kneeling during the anthem is undermining the whole point. I think that the national anthem and the flag are sacred to our country. The issue is about Americans. You’re disrespecting those who fought for your right to kneel. Kneeling during the anthem is insulting and desecrating; my family members gave their lives for this country. There is a problem with the senseless killing and profiling, no doubt, but why not take the millions that they’re making and do something about it? Go out into the community and speak; that’s a positive protest. There’s so much more that can be done than sitting during the national anthem. It’s not that I disagree with issue; it’s that [I] disagree with the way that they’re raising awareness for it.”

Addressing police brutality is a hot topic amongst Americans, but for now, the players can choose to continue to kneel, though politicians like President Trump and Alabama’s Roy Moore are against it.

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Taking a Knee