Approved by a 9-0 vote of the Scroll Editorial Board.
Kneeling during the national anthem. It has become one of the most discussed topics across the nation. President Trump attacked the NFL players who knelt during the anthem, 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!’?”
Hundreds of players knelt after that attack, and many continue to kneel. Although all of the players have stated that they are not kneeling to disrespect the military, people, including the White House administration, continue to try and make the protests about the disrespecting the American flag and the military.
We at the Scroll believe those who kneel are not disrespecting the military when they kneel and every citizen has the right to kneel during the national anthem, whether we agree with them or not.
To be clear, the football players are not protesting the national anthem, the flag or the military. They are protesting the racial inequality that has existed in this country for decades, specifically police brutality. It is similar to how the 1960’s bus boycotts were not about the buses but racist policies on those buses.
If the players wanted to disrespect the military, they would not kneel reverently during the anthem; they would call POW’s losers or attack Gold Star families.
Since Colin Kaepernick started kneeling in 2016, he and every person who has knelt says they are protesting how police treat black people. They are not protesting the military. Kaepernick, who started the protest, made that much clear.
According to the Independent, Kaepernick started kneeling instead of sitting to show more respect to military veterans. This change came about after Kaepernick spoke with former NFL player and veteran Nate Boyer.
Even with the change, Kaepernick and those who joined him have been criticized heavily. Those against the protest said the players should be grateful to live in this country. They say the players should be grateful for the success that the United States has allowed them to have.
The players love this country. After a 2016 game where he and others knelt, Arian Foster, a player for the Dolphins, explained how he loves this country and the rights it gives him, according to SBNation.
“This is exactly what this country is all about,” Foster said. “We have people in other countries that if they speak out, they get beheaded. They get killed. They get tortured. That’s not what this is about. If somebody disagrees with it, they can disagree with it – but respect that right to protest. Those same people who fought and died for our right to protest fought for your rights.”
No matter what people say, it is about the rights citizens have in this country to speak about injustices they see when and where they see fit. People can disagree with them; they have the right. However, we cannot try and take that right away.
Many have suggested the players protest somewhere else, but that is not the point. The point of a protest is to force the people to face a problem they have been avoiding. It is supposed to make people feel uncomfortable. The NFL players are using their platform to speak for those who cannot and to start a conversation.
Others have suggested that the players protest on their own time. However, the right to free speech should apply everywhere. Also, they are protesting on their own time. The players are paid to play football, not to stand during the national anthem.
It is not hard to understand. If the KKK and other white supremacists, who represent the worst of this country, have the right to loudly march in this nation waving flags that the United States have fought against, then NFL players and hundreds if not thousands who have joined them have the right to quietly kneel.
If the NFL protest angers you but not the white supremacist marches where they shout “Jews will not replace us,” then it is not about the protests. If you see the NFL protesters as “sons of b*****” like our president does, and yet see “fine people” in a group shouting “Blood and Soil,” a Nazi slogan, then it is not about taking a knee. For you, it is something else entirely.
We should be grateful the NFL players protest. The United States started out as a protest. Taking a knee during the anthem, even if seen as imperfect, is patriotic. They are exercising their First Amendment right, and we as a nation need to protect that right for everyone, not just those we agree with. Speak out against the protest, but do not try to take that right away.