The National Football League (NFL) is once again generating headlines across our country. In the recent past, the NFL made national news regarding the infamous “Deflategate,” cases of domestic violence involving team members, and the long-term effects of concussions concerning former and present players. Currently, controversy has been ignited across our nation all because of one player’s actions during the playing of our National Anthem.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to remain seated throughout the National Anthem at the beginning of a preseason game. After the game, Kaepernick stated to NFL media during an exclusive interview, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
The 49ers team delivered a statement regarding Kaepernick’s demonstration: “The National Anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the National Anthem.”
Since Kaepernick’s protest, not only have numerous NFL players from various teams joined in support, but many high school students have protested during the playing of the National Anthem. High school players from coast to coast have expressed their support for Kaepernick by taking a knee during the anthem. Kaepernick visited a high school in Oakland, Calif. and commended the high school team for their support. While the entire football team lay on their backs during the National Anthem, some with their hands thrusted in the air, Kaepernick took a knee. A high school player in Massachusetts took a knee during his game and was suspended for one game. The suspension was later terminated because the district claimed he had not violated any school rules.
Kaepernick’s college football coach Chris Ault voiced his opinion of Kaepernick’s National Anthem protest: “Kap using an NFL game as his platform to show the importance of his cause was selfish. Not standing up for an American treasure such as the National Anthem is disrespectful and clearly has shortchanged the essence of his message because the attention of an uneasy America is on him, not the cause he values. I think there are better venues to express those interests and his ultimate message. You never lead by sitting down – during the National Anthem or anywhere – so for me it’s not the message that’s troubling, it’s the platform and the way it was delivered.”
In an interview with ESPN, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees stated, “I disagree. I wholeheartedly disagree. Not that he wants to speak out about a very important issue. No, he can speak out about a very important issue. But there’s plenty of other ways that you can do that in a peaceful manner that doesn’t involve being disrespectful to the American flag.”
Kaepernick’s former teammate Alex Boone, who has a brother who served with the Marines, stated, “You should have some f—ing respect for people who served, especially people that lost their life to protect our freedom. We’re out here playing a game, making millions of dollars. People are losing their life, and you don’t have the common courtesy to do that. That just drove me nuts.”
“The best corner in the game” Richard Sherman provided a lengthy statement on how he supports and understands Kapernick’s decision, but questions the platform he used to express his opinion. “He wanted to make a stand, anytime you don’t stand during the National Anthem people are going to criticize it. That’s the unfortunate part of it, you can’t ever stand against the flag and things like that, a lot of people sacrifice and things like that for it, but there is also a deeper meaning to what he did.
Hall of Famer Jim Brown is arguably one of the greatest players in NFL history. Brown explained that a lot has changed in the NFL since his playing days, with teammates motivated to fight for equal rights and equal pay. “I listened to him and he makes all the sense in the world. He’s within his rights and he’s telling the truth as he sees it. I am with him 100 percent. … Now if you ask me ‘Would I do that?’ No I won’t, because I see it a little differently. I’m an American citizen, I pay my taxes, I want my equal rights but this is my country, and consequently I don’t want to open up for ISIS or anybody that will take away what we’ve already gained.”
President Obama addressed Kaepernick’s protest during a news conference in China, “I haven’t been following this closely, but my understanding at least is that he’s exercising his constitutional right to make a statement…but I don’t doubt his sincerity based on what I’ve heard.”
Even Trump has voiced his opinion regarding Kaepernick’s protest, “I have followed it and I think it’s personally not a good thing. I think it’s a terrible thing, and you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him, let him try, it’s not gonna happen.”
According to Forbes, the NFL is losing millions of viewers due to the “Kaepernick Effect.” During an online/telephone survey of 1,000 adult individuals, about one-third said they were less likely to watch NFL games because of Kaepernick’s protests.