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Kneeling During the National Anthem: Admirable or Disrespectful?

October 2, 2017

Two Round Table writers go head to head on the issue of kneeling during the national anthem in protest of racial discrimination.

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Kneeling During the Anthem is Admirable

Recently, there has been much controversy over professional athletes not participating in the national anthem, many calling it disrespectful to the brave soldiers that fight for this country.  President Donald Trump even made such a claim at a recent event, asking the audience, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now?” But I think people need to understand why athletes are doing this before passing judgment.

They’re not disrespecting the flag or the people that fight for our country; instead, they’re using their platform to fight against racism, inequality and police brutality.  This trend isn’t a new one resulting from Trump’s presidency either; NFL player Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem when Obama was in office, and many WNBA players have protested before our president was elected as well. We’re in America, the land of the free, and we should be able to exercise our freedom of speech and right to protest, which is exactly what these professional athletes are doing. Trump is very concerned with athletes peacefully protesting in a symbolic way, but relatively silent when Nazi supporters and the KKK are holding hateful protests and rallies.

The U.S. Flag code also says nothing about sitting or kneeling during the national anthem being disrespectful. Things listed on the U.S. Flag Code (Title 4, Chapter 1, Code 8)  that are described as disrespectful are actions such as having the flag flat or horizontal, putting the flag on advertisements or clothing/uniforms, and anything disposable like paper plates and napkins. This is ironic, as you have probably seen many “patriotic” people support these dishonorable acts.

Declining to stand for the national anthem is a peaceful way that athletes are shining the spotlight on a problem that needs to be stopped. The idea that innocent lives are being taken based on the color of their skin needs to be brought to attention. The man that is supposedly running our country is more worried about rescinding an invite to the White House from a basketball team than the disasters that are affecting America in a horrendous way.  

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    Kneeling During the Anthem is Disrespectful

    Amid recent comments by President Trump bashing NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem, much controversy has arisen over whether or not the kneeling is appropriate during such an important song. Many teams and players protested this past Sunday by either kneeling or remaining in the tunnel while the anthem was playing. There are two clear sides to this protest: those who think that they have the right to protest during the anthem, and those who believe no matter what is going on in the world around them, NFL players have a duty to stand. Personally, my stance on this issue is that NFL players should absolutely be standing while the national anthem is playing. The reason behind this has nothing do with political beliefs; rather, it has everything to do with respecting one of the most important symbols of the United States.

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand that NFL athletes and personnel are kneeling for the anthem as a sign of unity against racism. However, instead of kneeling, or even remaining in the tunnel, (as the Pittsburgh Steelers did) there are other ways that NFL members can band together. In fact, another tactic used by multiple teams this past weekend was to stand and lock arms during the anthem. Other teams decided to protest respectfully by kneeling before the anthem was played and rising as a sign of respect for their country.

    During the Steelers game this past weekend, as the team stayed in the tunnel as previously mentioned, the starting offensive tackle, Alejandro Villanueva, who was an army ranger before playing pro football, stood outside by himself with his hand over his heart, respecting the anthem.  This is a prime example of how protesting the anthem is negative, because it singled out an individual player who served in the military to protect his country. While Villanueva actually agrees with some of the other players’ protests, he felt that standing during the anthem was more important. This seems hypocritical, as the protests were all about standing (or not standing) together, and yet the Steeler organization appears divided at a time when NFL personnel are trying to unite as one.

    To me, when NFL players do not stand for the national anthem, they are disrespecting not only their nation, but also those brave enough to risk their lives to maintain our freedoms. Through their participation in these protests, players display disrespect for their nation, which is why I say that instead of kneeling, there are many other appropriate alternative protests that can be performed. Therefore, these players owe it to their nation to stand for the national anthem, and should be proud to be an American, regardless of how much controversy there is surrounding the nation right now. Kneeling during the national anthem is inappropriate, as it ignores one of the most prominent tokens of American freedom (as well as the individuals who maintain its freedom). By participating in the protest, NFL players are disregarding the nation that made them the successful individuals they are today.

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