Opinion: The NFL’s Policy on Kneeling During the Anthem is Misguided

Dominic Victoria, Writer

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This past Wednesday, the National Football League announced a new policy regarding kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before every game. If you haven’t heard about it, this policy requires all players and personnel to “stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.” This is the league’s attempt to end the widely-debated anthem protests that have taken place over the past two years, starting with quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling at the beginning of the 2016 season. Numerous players followed him, and the issue gained large amounts of attention as the year went on. Many fans were infuriated by these actions, including President Donald Trump, who has said a player who kneels “maybe shouldn’t be in the country” and ordered owners to “get that son of a b—- off of the field.”

In opposition to these disgusting (and downright disturbing) comments by our president, I would like to begin my argument with the words of a true American hero, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). Senator Duckworth lost both of her legs while serving in Iraq, so I think most would agree that her opinion on patriotism is of great value in this situation. In response to the new policy, she stated that it was her “honor to defend people’s right to free speech”.

I agree firmly with Senator Duckworth’s opinion on the subject. The purpose of our military is to protect and serve the American values of freedom we hold onto so dearly: our free speech, our freedom of religion and press, 1st Amendment rights that allow us to speak out against the injustice and prejudice we see in our nation. While the Constitution does not protect the rights of employees of private institutions, I still believe the NFL needs to allow these protests. And whose opinion should be valued more on this issue: that of a brave American who served her country valiantly and paid a great price.. or that of a billionaire draft dodger?

The protesting players are putting important issues on full display from a rare position in which African-Americans are truly noticed and listened to. If the government will not listen to its people who protest in the streets, the only chance those people have to make their voices heard is with the support of someone who receives national attention. This is what protesting during the anthem has become: an opportunity for the United States’ widespread racial inequality and frequent police brutality to be thrust into the faces of people who try to ignore it. When dealing with the ignorant it is necessary to make actions that will not be swept under the rug. The NFL earns billions paying players to slam into each other week after week, causing serious neurological damage to every one, so the least they can do is give them a couple of minutes to voice their opinions.

One of the arguments I see most frequently is the idea that these players are disrespecting the flag or the military. I would like to analyze this pregame ceremony that so many people find to be so sacred and patriotic. A flag is shown and an anthem plays and everyone around is forced to rise and pay homage to it. Stated that way, this starts to sound a little less patriotic than what we often think. Nothing shows love for freedom like forcing your citizens to rise and salute when your anthem is played. There’s a reason places like the United Kingdom don’t play their anthems before sporting events. When really analyzed it sounds like the work of a fascist state, or at the very least a nation without our many beloved freedoms.

Finally, I would like to talk about the meaning of these protests on a more personal level. Obviously I have not and will not ever be discriminated against because of my race. I will never have to deal with a family member being slaughtered by police because of their race. However, as an American it is my duty to be angry over the blatant racial inequality that our nation faces year after year and then further infuriated when the people who protest against it are struck down. I personally have no problem standing while I’m in the audience, but don’t force my fellow Americans to stand too. The NFL’s new policy only adds to the systematic censorship of the opinions of African Americans and therefore should be entirely dismantled immediately.

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