Is kneeling really the problem?

Imagine an America where a difference of opinion cannot be accepted; where the First Amendment is just a mere technicality. From President Trump demanding boycotts and delivering inflammatory statements, to the entire NFL organization and its players because of national anthem protests, this terrible nightmare is stepping closer to becoming a reality.  However, with constant media outrage many forget what the source of this dilemma is: just what they are kneeling for? 

National anthem protests in the NFL primarily began with former 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick began to kneel during the national anthem in the 2016 season over matters of racial injustice and police brutality. Other players began to follow suit.

Shortly before week three of the 2017 NFL season president Donald Trump delivered harsh explicit statements about what NFL owners should do to protesting players and then tweeted calling for a boycott of the NFL. The response was outrage; as most responses are to the President’s Twitter. Widespread protest ensued including the Steelers, who refused to enter the field during the anthem, and other teams such as the Jaguars and Ravens in which all players and staffs chose to kneel. 

The root of the problem is that it seems many cannot fully grasp what these players are protesting. Despite the players protesting on matters of racial injustice and police brutality, both appalling and very relevant issues today, many viewers have somehow skewed the situation claiming that players must “despise America” or “hate our veterans.”

Considering the several charitable things the NFL does for our veterans, including the annual Salute to Service campaign, which includes NFL sponsored military gear, military donations per the number of touchdowns scored by a team, and recognizing veterans before games, it’s incredibly unlikely this is the case. 

The argument can be made for those who are against kneeling that there is a policy in the NFL game operations manual against protesting during the national anthem. However, the NFL has already released a statement that indicates no punishment will be issued against protesters. So, to be blatantly honest, attempting to coerce these men into standing is a breach on the first amendment rights of NFL players. 

The real problem lies where people live in a society where a difference of opinion isn’t accepted. Where the leader of the free-world has to pick on NFL players for using their freedom of speech on a controversial issue. These protests are not a pressing issue. They are peaceful protests from players trying to use their platform to raise awareness. They aren’t plotting a plan of treason, simply taking advantage of their constitutional rights. 

This nation was founded upon a basic principle that citizens have the right to express what they believe in. Is it worth it to attack those who kneel over matters of respect and patriotism when it comes at the expense of patriotic values? No American should be instructed on what is okay to feel and say; whether it be from some rowdy football fan or the President of the United States.