NFL Player Protests Continue to Draw Dividing Lines

Since Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 protest where he refused to stand for the national anthem, the question of whether or not athletes should be forced to stand for the anthem has been hotly debated in America.

Even President Donald Trump weighed in, saying that he wanted to see athletes who kneel be fired and saying it was “disrespecting our country” in a tweet on Sept. 25. This is a question that has divided Americans across the country. Is it really disrespectful and should it be allowed?

The fact that we question the means of the protest rather than the protest itself shows a clear fact. The athletes who kneel are not delivering the right message and the protest they chose is not helpful.

Kaepernick defended his actions in 2016 by saying “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” The athletes who followed suit are all protesting various injustices that people of color are facing in America, especially the issue of police brutality.

According to The Washington Post, 800 people have been shot and killed by police, with 23 percent of those people being black, despite blacks only taking up 13 percent of the total US population. Of course, this is an incredibly complex issue that cannot be summed up with these few numbers. Countless factors have to be accounted for such as poverty rates, crime rates, culture, and so much more. It’s a difficult issue that needs to be talked about so that solutions can be found and questions can be answered, including how much of a factor racism actually is.

There are people that believe the problem with the national anthem protests is that it’s such a divisive and controversial protest. By choosing to kneel for the flag, players are showing disrespect to the flag. Whether or not it is justified because of what they’re protesting has largely been ignored because of that disrespect.

Standing for the anthem is something that dates back over a hundred years, all the way back to 1891 when Senator Julius Burrows of Michigan first proposed it during a speech at West Point when he said “every true American should rise to his feet in patriotic recognition.” It has since become part of the US Flag code with 36 U.S Code § 301 saying every person “should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart.”

According to many standing for the flag is not a pointless tradition. It is deeply ingrained into American culture and is meant to show that patriotic recognition that Senator Burrows wanted every American to display.

Those who are opposed to the protest believe refusing to stand goes against that recognition and will automatically turn people away. This can even apply those who may agree with what you are protesting.

Kaepernick and the dozens of athletes who followed his example have a genuine reason to protest. There are serious issues Americans are facing, and minorities are facing these issues at greater rates than whites. We need to talk about why and how to fix them. This is a discussion that absolutely needs to be had. But some believe the athletes have not helped the situation. By choosing the protest they did, they turned the debate into one about the national anthem instead of one about police brutality.

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