Colin Kaepernick did it. Marshawn Lynch did it. Michael Bennett did it. Players from teams across the nation have been taking a knee during the national anthem at NFL games. It seems like everyone’s doing it, but why? Are they protesting America? The flag? Or even Veterans who have fought and died for this country?
No, they are not protesting America or even anything remotely similar to what the media and Donald J. Trump want you to believe. Trump has sent out and retweeted more than 15 tweets through his own personal twitter account with the sole intent to twist societies view on NFL players and ruin the message that is intended among athletes nationwide. All of his tweets send an ugly and degrading message out about his own false reasoning for their taking a knee.
Many people have been using these player’s decisions to spread a hateful message through social media that is both incorrect and entirely ignorant to the subject at hand.
The sole reason for taking a knee during the anthem has nothing to do with disrespect towards the country. In fact, these players aren’t even referencing the country as a whole through this message, but rather they are kneeling for the population of people facing discrimination, despite it being 2017.
The point these athletes are attempting to make is that it is ignorant to celebrate the freedom within America while ignoring the injustice and hatred that too many people face here on a daily basis. That is not to say they believe that America is not a country to be proud of, and that the men and women who have served, or continue to serve, are not worthy of our acknowledgement and respect. In fact, they fought for our right to sit or stand during the anthem and for our right to express our opinions without censorship.
It is not that these players do not love America, nor that they hate the country, but it is that they despise the racial injustice, discrimination, and oppression that continues to occur in a country that is “free”. If they believed the country was so terrible they wouldn’t stay. Instead, they believe that there are improvements and adjustments that must be made for this country to truly be the best it can be.
The players have continuously felt the horrible backlash from the community, even receiving comments from people with no affiliation to the NFL. Trump and his followers persistently share horrific and derogatory ideas through their social media accounts. Trump has even been so inclined as to exclaim that any players who decide to take a knee might as well be fired. It his belief that ‘fans will continue to refuse to attend NFL games because they feel offended and it is the fault of these players’. This is again ignorant and inaccurate on his part.
These athletes have a talent that allows them to be in the spotlight and gives them the opportunity to spread their message of egalitarianism to a larger audience. They have the right to their freedom of speech just as much as anyone else in this country, no matter how large or accepting the audience is of the message. Trump seems to forget this rather too often which creates a hideous and divisive message that leads to the misguided, misinformed society that we face today.
Trump’s tweets allow for people to spread their hateful ideas with no backlash and show that he will condemn the racial injustice in this country by simply ignoring the problem. This is the reason we need players like Kaepernick and Bennett to take a knee.
If we do not pay attention to the issues facing modern-day America then we allow people, like Trump, to push these problems to the side, disregarding the issues of people other than themselves. It would result in the loss of hundreds of years of fighting for equality. The advancements made because of people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement would be for nothing if we allow for people to spread this bigoted and racist idea.
Rosa Parks took a seat on the front of a bus in 1955 and over 60 years later we are still taking a seat to fight inequality. She fought the system, just as these athletes continue to fight the system.
Racial injustice has been a problem in America since the day white Europeans set foot on the land, claiming it as their own. It didn’t end when slavery was abolished, and didn’t end when segregation was removed either. It is impossible for racism to end while these hateful messages continue to make their way around the world. Therefore, it is just and right for these players to take a knee in protest to the existence of racism in a country that believes “all men are created equal”.
It is Trump’s duty as a president to understand the rights of American citizens and respect them, not to condone them and call them “sons of bitches”. It is repulsive that he can recognize and accept white supremacists and their freedom of speech yet he cannot do the same for these players. They are just doing their jobs and taking the opportunity handed to them to express the idea of unity and justice, not to spread hate. They are spreading a message of equality and love, unlike the twisted message the media has picked up on.
So whether you love or hate their decisions to take a knee it is their right and their way of getting a message, that should already be a shared common belief, across to a broad and alert audience. It is incredibly brilliant and brave to take the risk of losing your job so that society will understand the rights of all people, no matter the color of your skin.