A Simple Knee, A Complex Controversy

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A Simple Knee, A Complex Controversy

Josh Parker

Josh Parker

Josh Parker

Tomas D'Anella, Editor-in-Chief

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It started with Colin Kaepernick taking a seat during the National Anthem in two 2016 preseason games. The next week, he took a knee alongside teammate Eric Reid, with the sports world following in his footsteps in the coming weeks. CNN quoted Kaepernick as saying,  “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Many players took after Kaepernick, kneeling during the anthem in the following weeks, even kneeling during the anthem on 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. However, many stood the protests by linking arms during the Star-Spangled Banner as a way to honor the flag while showing they sided with the 49ers’ quarterback. The Kansas City Chiefs stood arm-in-arm while cornerback Marcus Peters lined up on the edge of his teammates so he could raise his fist in protest, a la Tommy Smith and John Carlos in the 1968 Summer Olympics.

The protest swept the nation. High schools, colleges, professional sports all partook, ranging from entire teams kneeling, marching band members kneeling while playing, and TIME Magazine placing Kaepernick on the cover page for his “Perilous Fight.” Kaepernick has since been left as a free agent due to concerns of the distraction he would bring onto the field.

The outspoken President Donald Trump stirred the pot in September 2017, a year after the controversy started. At a rally for the Alabama Senate, he stated “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say” with an accusing finger wave “‘Get that  off the field right now! Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called the comments “divisive” and “an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL.”

Many in society have called this movement insane and disrespectful. Many others stand behind the demonstration. Jake Miner, a defensive end for Cottonwood High School’s football team, stated, “I feel like that having family in the military, you should stand because someone gave up their life for you to have the right to protest.”

A right to protest has many arguing as the protest takes place during the most patriotic moment of sporting events. Some argue that athletes should follow “company policy” as employers can limit protests on company time.

Cameron Garfield, a junior lineman on the Colt’s football team, feels “There are bigger and better things we can focus on as the people of America. I do agree that there is still oppression to the other cultures of America. But what the anthem signifies is so much more than what the athletes and many other people are making it out to be.”

The controversy around the Anthem is now becoming a focal point across sporting events. Many  are tuning in to see what will happen next. What player will kneel? What player will sit? Will a team sit out the Anthem completely? Will it reach a point where an entire stadium opts to forgo the ceremony?

How much is too much? An entire team has sat out the anthem already. It’s not just the NFL’s opinions being heard. The MLB, NBA, and many other professionals are speaking their minds. Teams have had to issue statements supporting their athletes should one speak out or sit.

America supports the freedom of speech and the freedom of belief, as stated in the First Amendment. While not all American people support the concept, athletes have just as much of a right as any citizen should.

However, there is a time and place for everything. From speaking your mind, to visibly protesting, some opinions are best left personal. You don’t gossip about someone at their own funeral. You don’t argue with the chef before he or she starts preparing your meal. You don’t protest during the National Anthem.

The National Anthem is a time where athletes of every conceivable background come together to honor the country they have the privilege to play in. It’s a refreshing sight when two teams, deadlocked on fighting tooth and nail in a few short moments, stand together side by side and honor the Nation’s Colors.

Sports is an avenue to bring people together, and the controversy around the National Anthem is driving people apart. It’s time to unite in the name of America.

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