A Knee That Started It All

May 25, 2018

It was a simple act that made the entire country (and perhaps the world!) sit up and take notice. In 2016, during a preseason NFL (National Football League) game, former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat while everyone stood during the playing of the national anthem. Why? It was his way of protesting against police brutality and the unfair treatment of African American people around the US. What may have seemed like a small act by a football player caused a big national uproar. Some felt that Mr. Kaepernick’s action was disrespectful to the American flag and to those who fight to keep the United States safe every day, while others defended his actions. Later, Mr. Kaepernick began taking a knee (or kneeling) during the national anthem to show respect for service men and women, while still taking a stand, and yet many still argued that his action was disrespectful and that the NFL should fine any player who followed suit.

By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (San Francisco 49ers National Anthem Kneeling) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Well, with the possibility of disciplinary action or not, many players across all sports leagues defiantly knelt alongside Mr. Kaepernick or locked arms during the national anthem. The acts of protests continued throughout the year and plagued the NFL—President Trump even weighed in and suggested that fans boycott the NFL until teams figured out how to stop the protests. The NFL was left in limbo with how to deal with such a sensitive matter. That is, until now.

Earlier this week, the NFL announced, “This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.” They went on to say, “The National Football League have reaffirmed their strong commitment to work alongside our players to strengthen our communities and advance social justice.”

Bottom line? Players are not allowed to protest during the game, but the NFL will work with players off the field and in communities on social justice issues. It was called a “compromise” among the thirty-two team owners and the NFL, but some team owners, like the New York Jets’ chairman Christopher Johnson, disagreed with the new policy and said that his players can protest without any consequences. Other sports leagues chimed in as well. Golden State Warriors’ Head Coach Steve Kerr commented on the decision saying that the NFL is ” just playing to their fan base and they’re basically trying to use the anthem as fake patriotism, nationalism, scaring people.”

What do you think? Does the NFL have the right to stop players from peacefully protesting on the field? 

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