NFL Players Take a Knee


Pittsburgh Steelers Tackle Alejandro Villanuea who stood alone during the national anthem. Creative Commons.

For over a year now, the NFL has been dealing with an overwhelmingly strong presence of protests from their athletes. The protests began after Colin Kaepernick, former player of the San Francisco 49ers, decided that he was going to take it upon himself to use his platform for something that he truly felt could change the way people think. And so began what has become sort of the norm at the start of every NFL game across the league; taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem.

Emotions have ranged between hatred and respect for Kaepernick’s actions, mostly differing in opinions from those who do not understand what he’s protesting about. The person who has now become the forefront of that misunderstanding is none other than President Donald Trump who tweeted his opinions on the national anthem protests. “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect … our great American flag (or country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!” Trump has clearly chosen a side on National anthem protests as he feels the players are disrespecting the American Flag and therefore disrespecting the country.

There is nothing wrong with him having an opinion, but calling players “son of bitches” and calling for them to be fired as he did at a rally in Alabama last week, is disrespecting their First Amendment rights. This issue, as with most topics that divide us, is misinformation from Trump and anyone else who disapproves of the players’ protests. These protests have nothing to do with disrespecting our nation’s flag. Everyone who lives in the United States of America should be proud to be doing so, as all of these players are.

What they are doing, and what Kaepernick started, is bringing attention to a social issue that has been dividing our country for hundreds of years. The entire basis of the protest centers on symbolism in that the flag symbolizes our country, the players symbolize the entire black community, and taking a knee symbolizes an entire group of individuals falling to their knees in hopes for change to ensue. They are desperate for the country’s attention and in need for conversation to spark amongst all of us that live in the greatest country in the world. To see this as a sign of disrespect is untrue, as the players themselves have commented on their protests, clearly stating no disrespect for the flag or for the military is intended in any way. Kaepernick himself, who has family who have served in the military, said: “They fight for freedom, liberty and justice for all.”

Athletes are exercising their First Amendment rights and President Trump cannot deprive them of this. There was clearly offense taken by the NFL and its players to Trump’s comments, as viewers were shocked to see the largest form of protest to date. The Seattle Seahawks vs. Tennessee Titans game was a spectacle as both teams decided they would take their protests a bit further by not even leaving their locker rooms for the national anthem. The Pittsburgh Steelers in their game versus The Chicago Bears joined in by having their players stay in their locker room with the exception of former army ranger, Alejandro Villanueva. He stood for the anthem in the tunnel, and given his military background, it was to no one’s surprise.