Controversial Protesting Tristan Cromer, Haley Melvin, Jay Cox

Beginning with one of the San Francisco 49er's preseason games, Colin Kaepernick expressed his opinion on the persisting issue of the mistreatment and unjust actions towards the African American community in the United States. NFL, the National Football League, fans were shocked when they noticed Kaepernick kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. This has caused more controversy pertaining to racism and the treatment of blacks, as Kaepernick has been able to increase the relevancy of the topic due to his position as an icon for the NFL. Kaepernick has spoken with the press multiple times since he made his decision to kneel for the National Anthem, saying "I'm not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color...it would be selfish on my part to look away" (Wyche). Many other athletes have decided to join Kaepernick's initiative in one way or another, whether in be kneeling, raising a fist, or linking arms with teammates (Sandritter). As with all questionable actions, some people support the quarterback's actions, while others oppose them. People claim that his actions are a sign of disrespect to the country, the military, and the veterans. Others side with Kaepernick and feel that it is justified for him to kneel for the mistreatment of African Americans that has continued to occur in America. Personally, we feel that Colin Kaepernick's and other athletes' decision to protest through the national anthem is reasonable and one of their rights as an American citizen. Although it can be interpreted as disrespectful, many people unknowingly are much less patriotic than they think. In order to have a noticeable and effective protest, something outrageous and attention seeking must be done.

In order to properly understand the movement that Colin Kaepernick has created and his motives behind it, some background information is necessary. A timeline of athletes protesting shows how what Kaepernick did has grown. On August 14th and 20th, Kaepernick kneels during preseason games, but goes unnoticed until the 49er's game on August 26th. Two days after people realize he kneeled during the anthem, he has press conferences where he explains his reasoning. On September 1st, he is joined by his teammate Eric Reid and Jeremy Lane, a cornerback for the Seahawks. Later in the week, Megan Rapine of the U.S. Women's soccer team shows her support by kneeling (Sandritter).

Brandon Marshall, a wide receiver for the New York Jets, joined the protests on September 9th. On the anniversary of 9/11, the Seahawks, Dolphins, Patriots, and Chiefs all began to protest in some form or another. The Seahawks team linked arms, four Dolphins players kneeled, the Patriots raised their fists, and the Chiefs all linked arms as well. The trend of more and more athletes participating in this form of protest has continued week by week, spreading to high schools and colleges (Sandritter).

In total, there have been twenty-eight NFL players to date that have decided to protest during the national anthem by either kneeling or raising their fist. This does not include the other athletes outside of the NFL that have decided to take part ("NFL Players Who Protested during the National Anthem in Week 10").

The year of 2016 has shown numerous devastating acts violence and most headlines featured police brutality against African Americans. However, this has been going on for many years and the national outcry has finally made it’s mark. The movement began with the killing of a black teenager named Trayvon Martin in 2012 when he was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman (Savali). Countless deaths sparked protests across the country, and these protests were renewed when grand juries declined to charge officers involved in either case. The majority of these NFL players are protesting in light of these unfair actions taken on by police force. This year there have also been many protests in numerous cities for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement which campaigns against violence towards blacks (Savali). All of these events that have accumulated are the prime motives behind the national anthem protests.

As for the action of kneeling during the national anthem, many people have questioned the legality, claiming that what Kaepernick is doing is illegal and that people must stand during the national anthem. According to Title 36, Section 171 of the U.S. Code, "During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in (military) uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart" (Lord). There has been large debate over whether the "should" in the first sentence indicates that standing is mandatory or optional (Lord). Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide whether or not to stand because there is no punishment or fine. In 2008, the Congressional Research Service Report to Congress stated, "No penalty or punishment is specified in the Flag Code for display of the flag of the United States in a manner other than as suggested. Cases ... have concluded that the Flag Code does not proscribe conduct, but is merely declaratory and advisory" (Lord). So according to Federal Government word, Kaepernick is abiding by the law and there is no punishment. In addition to this, Kaepernick is clearly exercising his first amendment rights as an American citizen.

Kaepernick and other athletes are simply expressing themselves and their ideals, which by the first amendment should be respected. Essentially, these athletes have grievances that they are petitioning, which is completely legal. People that make the claim what these athletes are doing is illegal are incorrect and this is seen by early laws and recent statements released by the government (Baltzwell).

A major issue that American citizens have had with Kaepernick's form of protesting is the implications of disrespect to America and how it is seemingly unpatriotic. This is understandable, as the national anthem is one of the many ways to respect the military and the sacrifices they have made in order to maintain the "liberty and justice for all." People have been outraged because they view Kaepernick's actions as disrespectful and ungrateful toward the military and veterans (Armour).

However, many actions that everyday citizens perform could be viewed or interpreted as unpatriotic. The fact is that people only take notice to such things when an icon like Kaepernick does it or if it is something bold and out of the ordinary, such as kneeling during the anthem. Nancy Armour elaborates on this idea in an article she writes in response to many harsh, threatening emails she received after writing on the Kaepernick controversy. She points out the hypocrisy of the people opposed to the protests, saying "What I can't understand is... their hypocrisy, demanding respect for this country’s institutions and symbols when they refuse to show it for their fellow citizens" (Armour). The writer makes a great point that people all of a sudden become super patriotic only to "cover for the vehemence and volume of the reaction to Kaepernick and his fellow protesters" (Armour). Patriotism only becomes an issue in times like this. NFL players did not have to be on the field during the national anthem until 2009 and if people were truly patriotic, there would have been outrage and protest pushing for this concept long before. There is no doubt that plenty of fans are disregarding the national anthem during the game, whether that be through socializing, technology, not removing his or her hat, or some other way. Also, Armour points out that true patriots of the U.S. would be passionate to vote, yet an average of sixty percent of Americans vote during a presidential year ("Voter Turnout 101 - FairVote."). It is pretty clear that there is at least some mistreatment of blacks in this country and people point out the fact that Kaepernick's actions could be seen as disrespectful as a way to avoid these issues. It's much easier to criticize someone's perspective than to try and understand their perspective. As a white person in America, it is difficult to see the prejudice and mistreatment that others have to endure, sometimes making us blind or ignorant towards these problems.

In a time like this where the country is so divided, what makes America so special is the right be entitled to your own opinion. The only way to gain attention from the media and making a difference is by doing something outrageous like what these players have done. In the end, there may be an undertone of disrespect towards the military, however it is not their intention at all. They see, through first hand experiences, just how prejudiced american can be, and it pains them to see their country that they love so much behave in ways, that in their minds, are unacceptable. It is not un american to have a different opinion than someone else or to express that opinion. In fact, what is unamerican is attempting to silence the voice of an american citizen because you do not like what they have to say. It is that very right that we fought, are fighting, and will continue to fight for.

Works Cited

Armour, Nancy. "How National Anthem Protests Bring out Worst in People." USA Today. Gannett, 27 Sept. 2016. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

Baltzell, George W. "Constitution of the United States - We the People." Constitution for the United States - We the People. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

CNN. "Obama Discusses Kaepernick's Anthem Protest." YouTube. YouTube, 28 Sept. 2016. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

"Colin Kaepernick Explains Why He Won't Stand during National Anthem." YouTube. YouTube, 29 Aug. 2016. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

"'Kneeling Protest Isn't Disrespectful' - Arian Foster." YouTube. YouTube, 13 Sept. 2016. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

LanaDelReyVEVO. "Lana Del Rey - National Anthem." YouTube. YouTube, 05 Sept. 2012. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

Lord, Debbie. "Is Colin Kaepernick Breaking the Law by Not Standing for The..." Ajc. Ajc.com, n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

"NFL Players Who Protested during the National Anthem in Week 10." ESPN.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

Opinion, By DP. "The Reason for NFL Players’ National Anthem Protests." The Denver Post. N.p., 16 Sept. 2016. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

Sandritter, Mark. "A Timeline of Colin Kaepernick's National Anthem Protest and the Athletes Who Joined Him." SBNation.com. N.p., 6 Nov. 2016. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Savali, Kirsten West. "Killers Behind The Badge: NewsOne’s Investigative Series On Police Brutality In Black America." News One. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

"Voter Turnout 101 - FairVote." FairVote. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

Wyche, Steve. "Colin Kaepernick Explains Why He Sat during National Anthem." NFL.com. N.p., 27 Aug. 2016. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

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Created with images by Ryan Vaarsi - "Rally for Trayvon Martin 2" • xddorox - "Black Lives Matter" • mrsdkrebs - "American Flag"

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