At the beginning of the 2016 NFL Season, then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines when he refused to stand for the United States national anthem. This sparked a huge debate and division of the country with other NFL players joining the protest. Some were in favor of the player’s right to protest. Others couldn’t believe anyone would disrespect our country in that manner. The controversy reached its peak when President Donald Trump labeled NFL players as “sons of bitches” and called for NFL owners to fire them. This only added more fuel to the fire. Now, there are numerous reports of NFL owners meeting to discuss these protests.
The main questions that needs to be asked are why these protests started and what was the core reason behind Kaepernick kneeling in the first place. The answer is due to the oppression of black people and police brutality acts that were happening in our country around that time. Because the country lacked prevention of such terrible acts, Kaepernick began kneeling during “The Star Spangled Banner” before each NFL game.
Whether or not you are for or against those players protesting during the anthem, the reason for the protests has been lost throughout the debates. Instead of understanding and paying attention to the issues that sparked the protest, all the attention has been focused on the protest act itself. Kaepernick started this protest in order to bring attention to racial injustices. What is the point of these protests if they aren’t bringing any more attention to the very thing that they are supposed to be protesting about?
One explanation to this can be how players are now using Kaepernick’s protest for other reasons that are not related to racial injustices. You heard me right. For example, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans knelt because he wasn’t happy with Donald Trump being elected as president. Others, however, began kneeling in response to President Trump’s comments or in support of Kaepernick, who is currently a free agent and unlikely to land a job with an NFL team anytime soon.
Given all these protests happening during the national anthem, the debate has turned into whether or not players have the right to kneel for the anthem, not about sparking discussions about police brutality when they first started. Regardless of your view on Kaepernick’s protest, it did what he intended it to do. All these other reasons for protesting are taking attention away from the core reason it had started in the first place.
Furthermore, while players do have the right to protest, as protected by the First Amendment, kneeling during the anthem is a big deal and can be viewed as being disrespectful, no matter the intent. It is the sacred symbol of our country and what our service men and women fight to protect. Kaepernick’s protest, one could argue, was worth the sacrifice as it would ultimately benefit our society in the long run. Players protesting simply for their rights benefits no one but themselves, which is incredibly insulting to our flag.
In the beginning, the Kaepernick protests were about racial injustices. But now, they have turned into something they were not intended to become. It is time for all sides to turn their attention away from the protests and instead gather and discuss the issues that sparked them in the first place.