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Composition 1

November 2017

Kneeling for the Anthem

            Colin Kaepernick, who is a bi-racial
man grew up relatively privileged, but felt he was disconnected from his ethnic
background. In college Kaepernick joined an all-black fraternity, and was a
social activist early on. He became aware of the many challenges that African
American men had to endure while in college. When police violence against
African American males became spiraling out of control, Kaepernick decided he
was going to protest by sitting on the bench on the sideline, until one day
after a discussion with a veteran they both concluded that instead on sitting
during the National Anthem, Kaepernick would kneel. Many of the fans where not
pleased with the kneeling. He was not signed for the 2017-2018 season.
President Trump went on live television and cursed all the protesters, and
demanded the NFL to fire any player that refused to stand for the National
Anthem. The NFL League stated they would not fire any player who engaged in a
peaceful sideline protest.

            Many Americans feel that the players
are disrespecting the military. However, I feel that Kaepernick decided to
kneel to protest social injustice experienced by the African Americans. The
protest had nothing to do with how he felt about the military. To understand
the purpose of the protest, one must understand the issues leading up to the
protest. NFL fans have never thought to boycott the league prior to this despite
active players being convicted of crimes such as: drug possessions, domestic
violence, and murder, but we continue to watch and attend the games faithfully.
Kaepernick’s protest is being represented as impertinent, even though kneeling
has been a sign of respect for many years. I believe the backlash has more to
do with what he is protesting rather than how he is protesting. The fact his protest
is being portrayed as being disrespectful, even though kneeling has been a sign
of respect for a very long time. I believe it is not fair for him to not be
able to play the sport he loves, all because he is exercising his 1st
amendment right.

            Although many people have reframed
Kaepernick’s protest, he has been very vocal about why he is protesting. He
felt uneasy about the social injustices in the Unites States, particularly
about the African Americans, and how they are targets of police brutality. The
police who harm or kill them are almost never punished. He decided to use his
celebrity platform to bring attention to this issue: “I am not going to stand
up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people
of color,” Kaepernick told NFL media after the game. “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” (Wyche 2016).

            Kaepernick was not the first athlete
to bring attention to this issue. It has been well-documented that African
Americans have been provided an opportunity to succeed that have often outpaced
society. Its been a long-standing tradition for African American athletes to
use their platforms to speak out about social justice. Muhammed Ali would often
speak about civil rights and was often criticized, because he was an activist.
Back in 1968 at the Olympics, John Carlos and Tommie Smith made international
headlines for a black power salute while receiving their medals. In 1970, a
group of African American players from Syracuse University, known as the
Syracuse 8 used their platform to protest discrimination at their school
(Hatendi 2016). NBA players Derrick Rose and LeBron James have worn t-shirts
with “I can’t breathe” on them to bring attention to the police killing of Eric
Garner, a black man who was selling illegal cigarettes and who said, “I can’t
Breathe” just before dying at the hands of the officers (Hatendi 2016). Carmelo
Anthony who plays for Oklahoma
City Thunder basketball team, was the leader of a Black Lives Matter protest
held in New York, and then used the ESPY’s to call upon all black athletes to
become politically active. The entire Miami Heat basketball team dressed in
hoodies and took a picture to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin by George
Zimmerman, who was found not guilty of his murder, despite the victim was an
unarmed African American adolescent walking home from the store. While the list
above is incomplete, I am demonstrating that African American athletes have a
standing history of using their prominent platforms to bring attention to the
racial injustices in the United States.

            Why have those who are calling for
NFL boycotts due to kneeling have not protested in the past? The NFL is known
for employing criminals. The NFL fired Michael Vick, because he had a
dog-fighting ring and was torturing animals to death, but you never heard of
any mass boycotts of the NFL after he was rehired after going to prison. Then
you have Ray Rice, who was caught on tape beating his fiancé until she became
unconscious in an elevator. Josh Brown, who has admitted to being involved in
domestic violence in serval written documents. Still, there have not been any
mass boycotts of the NFL even though they have employed players who have beat
and raped women. This has led me to question the motives of the people who are
boycotting the NFL due to kneeling during the National Anthem. If the
boycotters were really concerned about getting respect for our Americans, it
would certainly seem that a boycott of the NFL would have come into play when
Josh Brown got to keep his job. Although Ray Rice did lose his job due to
domestic violence, it was not due to a boycott. Ray Rice may not be employed
with the NFL anymore, but he is employed as a high school football coach at his
alma mater, New Rochelle High School, in New York. I think that having a
well-known woman-beater and the face of domestic violence mentoring and
coaching our young men seems far more dangerous than kneeling during the
National Anthem.

            Taking a knee has an association in
sports, particularly football. In football the players traditionally take a
knee for respect and concern, or when a player is injured. But, Kaepernick’s
decision to kneel is described as disrespectful to our soldiers. The military
has a tradition of kneeling as well. They traditionally kneel at the funerals
of their fallen comrades. Veteran Nate Boyer had this in mind when he met with
Kaepernick and suggested he take a knee rather than sit as this was a sign of
respect and concern as well. Martin Luther King Jr is one of the United States
most famous civil rights leader, and he is known for kneeling with other civil
workers and praying before he was jailed in Selma. Here you can see kneeling
was a symbolic gesture used throughout history, but King too like Kaepernick’s
protest were labeled as attention-seeking and disruptive. The people who were
comfortable with the status felt it was unnecessary.

            In conclusion Colin Kaepernick’s
decision to kneel during the National Anthem has sparked a huge social justice
movement in the NFL. This movement has now moved to almost all professional
sports. It is no surprise that this protest is being portrayed as disrespectful
to our military. In reality, as long as we Americans continue to treat people
different based on their ethnic background, we have failed to fulfill the
promises associated with the constitution. The question people should be asking
is not “why did Kaepernick kneel?”, but “Why didn’t more people kneel?”




Works Cited

Natasha. “Sports & Politics: 27 Woke Athletes Who’ve Taken a Stand.” Essence. 7 September 2016. Https://
Accessed 21 November 2017.

Steve. “Colin Kaepernick Explains Why He Sat During National Anthem.”, 27
August 2016. Https://
Accessed 21 November 2017.

Flaherty, Bryan. “From
Kaepernick sitting to Trump’s Fiery Comments: NFL’s Anthem Protests Have Spurred
Discussion.” The Washington Post, 24 September
2017. Https://
Accessed 21 November