Players Against the President: Protesting on the Field

By Anthony Gabbianelli, Sports Editor

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Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore on Flickr
The president made remarks about players kneeling during the national anthem last week.                Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Why Colin Kaepernick was protesting is simple. There is injustice in our country and since our country is not doing anything about it, Kaepernick will not stand for the national anthem.

As time went on, more and more players in the NFL began to do the same. They either locked arms to signify unity, raised their right fist in the air or followed Kaepernick and got down on one knee during the anthem. Even athletes in other sports started to take notice and began to kneel, too.

This was a year ago. Now Kaepernick is not currently playing in the league, but his presence and actions are still taking effect on others, even if he’s not on the field.

Over the past week, our president has taken a shot at athletes specifically those in the NFL, who “disrespected” our flag and did not stand for it. His words, while unsurprising at this point, struck many athletes, both in and outside the NFL, and they have taken notice.

Entire NFL teams have locked arms and dropped to one knee in protest, sending a strong message to our president and to the crowds watching on TV or in the stands that dividing a nation is not the solution. The Pittsburgh Steelers went even further and stayed in the locker room instead of being outside for the national anthem, except for Alejandro Villanueva who served as an Army Ranger before playing in the NFL.

NBA players like Lebron James and Stephen Curry, who said he would not visit the Oval Office as is custom for any championship team, have also spoken out against the president and his words. MLB had only one player, Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell, protest by taking a knee and putting his hand over his heart. There is speculation that San Jose Sharks right winger Joel Ward will do the same when the NHL season begins in the next week.

I started last week’s editorial saying that politics are inescapable in this day and age. While I still believe this, it would be unjust for me to say that the players should not protest. The commander in chief took a direct shot at all athletes and it would not make any sense if they did not respond back.

The president should stick to politics, much like how ESPN should stick to covering sports. There are enough problems in the world today that he should be focused on instead of athletes protesting. Athletes should be allowed to voice their political opinion as they are still citizens of the country and they have the right to protest. These peaceful protests should be admired, not ridiculed.

Kaepernick started this protest due to injustice in America. Police brutality and the oppression of black people in America are some of the reasons he is kneeling. Whether he does it on the field or protests in the streets, like many Americans have before, he has every right as an American citizen to do this. If our president can’t understand this, then I don’t how he can run a free country.

When the NHL and NBA seasons start, there will be protests. The NBA has been known to have their players protest for some time now. One example was back in 2014 when NBA players wore black shirts with the statement, “I can’t breathe” on them in protest of the murder of Eric Garner. The NHL, while predominantly white, still has its share of black players. Joel Ward and Wayne Simmonds are two of the more popular black players and they should protest along with any other player who feels the same way as any of the other athletes.

The owners and front offices of teams have also partaken in the protests. Most owners locked arms and knelt with the rest of their team, while some chose not to do anything. Owners like the New England Patriots’ Robert Kraft and the New York Jets’ Woody Johnson have closer ties to the president, and their teams stood for the anthem with locked arms. These two owners also never locked arms with their players.

The point is that these peaceful protests should be allowed in any league. These athletes have children that look up to them and if they were to keep their beliefs hidden from the public, then they would be doing a disservice as a role model for others.

The fact that only one MLB player is brave enough to voice his beliefs is astonishing to me. It could be because of how diverse the league is by having players coming from across the world, like Japan and most Hispanic countries. These players, who salute the national anthem for the country they play in, should still protest. Some of the players immigrate to the country in order to play. This country, if you haven’t taken a history class, was made up of immigrants who fought for their freedom. These players should follow suit. Being that it’s the country’s national pastime, it would be huge if baseball players all got together in protest and said that we need to change things.

The protests made by athletes of various races and ethnicities should be remembered for what they symbolized for the country. The athletes are citizens, just like all of us, and what they are doing is in their rights to do so. For a president whose soul goal is to divide the United States, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that this is his response. I respect the passion the players give to speak their minds on the field, and I fully support them and their protests. Many look to sports as an escape from the real world. Entertainment sports should be a remedy to relieve stress and break away from everyday life. But if someone causes huge problems like this that leak into the sports world, then the players, coaches and front office should respond. Pretty much everyone did, but everyone should take a stand, or in this case a knee, for what’s right.

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