Point Counterpoint: Taking a Knee to Make a Stand

Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality.

Courtesy of USA Today

Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality.

Ryan Van Kirk, Sentry Reporter

Last year, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick shocked everybody by refusing to stand during the National Anthem. Kaepernick believed that it would be wrong of him to stand during the national anthem because he felt that African Americans were being oppressed. Kaepernick felt this way because during that time there was a lot of police brutality going on around the country, mostly aimed at young African Americans. Immediately, Kaepernick’s decision sparked debate surrounding whether he should be sitting or standing during the anthem. This year, Colin Kaepernick was not on an National Football League (NFL) roster; however, that does not mean no one was sitting during the anthem. Many players rallied behind Kaepernick’s message and followed his lead. The players’ protest is about police brutality and racism in America, and raising awareness for this issue. The message they are trying to spread is that the problem is more than a few rogue police officers, it is about institutionalized racism. Many African Americans, including the NFL players protesting, feel as though they are systematically oppressed and are calling for change.

Those who disagree with the players’ protest say, “if they do not love America, then they can leave.” The problem with that is that the players do not hate America, they are trying to make it better. Through their protest they are attempting to fix a wrong that exists within the country. That is admirable, not disrespectful. Throughout its history, the United States has constantly changed its laws to make sure everyone is protected. The NFL players are calling for a change, but nothing is happening.

Those who feel that it is disrespectful to knee during the anthem believe it is disrespectful to veterans and the military. However, the point of their protest is not to disrespect veterans, but to raise awareness to a serious issue that they want to get more attention. It is hard to find people in America who do not respect the military, and that is no different with NFL players, who have made it abundantly clear that their protest is about police brutality and advocating for African American equality. It is widely agreed that not all police officers are racist, and the few who are do not represent the rest. The players are protesting more than just a few bad officers, they are protesting systematic racism. Many people feel as though the justice system is rigged against minorities. This is exemplified by the fact that African Americans make up 13% of the population, they also make up 14% of drug usage in the US. However, 37% of people arrested for drug use are African American. Even more shocking is that fact that 57% of people in jail for drug use are African American (NAACP, Huffington Post). NFL player protests are so much more than getting mad at a few officers, who killed African Americans with no cause. The players also are upset by the fact that only a few of the officers were actually punished.

Many veterans and soldiers are happy to see NFL players protest; they are allowed to kneel because of the sacrifices made by our military. Recently, at a town hall meeting, many veterans took a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance in support of the recent protests. Clearly, NFL players have the support of soldiers and veterans, proving that their actions are not disrespectful to the military.

Players are using their first amendment right to free speech. People have a right to protest, as well as the right to disagree with the protest. However, that does not mean that the players should be punished for standing up for something they believe in. The players are not being disrespectful or rude, they are making a statement. Racial conflicts still exist, and the players should not stop protesting until these issues are fixed.