In 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem and began one of, if not the largest moral debates in sports history. Two years later, the subject has only gained more controversy and publicity.
Kaepernick first took a knee to protest racial injustice and police brutality in the United States, and has since been joined by athletes across the country.
Opposition to his actions spread with many people viewing this as him insulting and purposely disrespecting the country and flag. Those who kneel are not disrespecting the country, they are publicly proclaiming they disagree with the injustices it has committed.
Patriotism is supporting one’s country. Some argue that by kneeling during the anthem, the individual doing so is disrespecting the troops and what they fought for. First of all, that is not true.
Peaceful protest calling out a country’s actions is a cornerstone of this nation. In the landmark court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District multiple students were indefinitely suspended for wearing black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War, a war that has since been revealed to have done more harm than good.
The Supreme Court decided that a student has a constitutional right to peacefully protest. If a child has that, an adult should too.
A peaceful protest is one made to convey a point, and is perfectly legal in the eyes of the law as long as it does not impede on another person’s rights. Therefore, players cannot legally be required to stand and should not be fined for refusing to do so because if they were, that would mean their individual opinions, actions and political stances cannot be recognized because they offend others.
That is a view that inherently goes against the First Amendment’s freedom of speech and peaceful protest.
Additionally, some believe that it is an insult to the flag and the armed forces to kneel. Those who gave years of, and some their entire lives, should be respected. However, kneeling during the anthem does not signify a personal protest against soldiers or the sacrifices they made.
“I’m not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said in an interview posted on NFL.com. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the streets and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick and many other players are using their rights, the same rights soldiers throughout the years have fought for, to make a stance without attacking anyone. Kneeling is not an attack on the flag, it is a great representation of why the flag exists; To fight for what one believes in without violence.
Kneeling during the anthem is not unpatriotic, it is one of the most American things that can be done.