Land of the Free takes a knee

Aedin Seck and Elliot Lassitter

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Pro for the protests written by Aedin Seck.

As Americans, when we hear the soft notes of the national anthem cut through the air, it’s customary to rise and press your hand on your chest until you feel the familiar rhythm of your heartbeat line up with the patriotic song. It’s a moment of quiet togetherness shared by every American, representing the Home of the Brave. So, what’s the reaction when someone doesn’t stand?

Lately, it seems like more and more players in the NFL have been opting to “take a knee” during the anthem as a form of peaceful protest. They kneel for the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, and to show their disappointment with Donald Trump’s actions as president.

Unfortunately, their actions are causing outrage among some Americans, who believe their kneeling is disrespectful to the military, the flag itself, and is completely unpatriotic.

During sporting events, though, how many “patriotic Americans” ignore the anthem entirely? Surely, if you have ever been to a stadium during the time when the Star Spangled Banner begins, it is not difficult to find the people who stay seated, leave their hats on, or are too busy making their hot dog to even look up.

Why is that not considered disrespectful, but an American who acknowledges the anthem and chooses to peacefully protest the underlying themes of it, is? As someone that comes from a military household, I understand how precious freedom is. My family fought so these players would have the freedom to publicly express their beliefs. So they could choose to stand up, or rather, kneel, for what they believe in.

The NFL players aren’t kneeling to protest the flag or the country. They’re kneeling for something bigger than ourselves. For something that matters to them, and should matter to everybody. As some are saying, “thinking NFL players are ‘protesting the flag’ is like thinking Rosa Parks was protesting public transportation.”

If you’re upset that their partial stance is interrupting your sports events, change the channel when the anthem comes on. The reason they kneel during the anthem is because that’s where people are watching. These NFL players are using the stage, or field, they were given to get people to pay attention.

Whether you like it or not, their protests are working. The more attention taking a knee gets, the more awareness we give their cause- and that’s a good thing. That’s what protests are for, and that’s why Americans have the constitutional right to a peaceful protest.

America stands for a lot of things- Freedom. Liberty. Opportunity. Some Americans choose instead to kneel for these things. At the end of the day, we’re all Americans through and through.

As Rosa Parks once said, “you must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.”

Con towards the protests written by Elliot Lassitter 

Protesting the American flag is not a new concept in any way. Back in 2013, on the day of Barack Obama’s second inauguration day, people had hung our country’s flag upside down in order to show discontent with Obama’s presidency. Flash forward to 2017, and nothing has changed. Various players within the National Football League have taken upon a new means of expressing opposition by kneeling during the singing of the National Anthem. This movement was popularized by Colin Kaepernick at the beginning of the 49ers’ season.

Simply asserting that these players cannot kneel during the National Anthem is not a valid statement. Whether one is to agree or disagree with the movement, these players’ rights still remain. That being stated, serious politics and sports need to stay as far apart as possible.

Sports are universally known as entertainment. People turn to these forms of diversion for just that; diversion. America’s social issues are made so obvious in mainstream media to the point where the average American citizen would just want to change the channel and watch a game of football. Unfortunately, this protest is making harsh politics impossible to ignore. A casual entertainment seeker would turn the television off in an instant after spending hours flipping through channels and reading about issues highlighting the worst of American politics.

The recent politicization of sport has caused a downward drift in NFL ratings and viewership. According to Nielsen data, within the first few weeks of 2016 there were roughly 17.6 million people viewing throughout the NFL season. This fell to about 15.8 million viewers the following year. The ratings had also slipped down by about 8%. If politics are to continue to act hand in hand with sports, the ratings will continue to fall.

The inconsistency of the NFL allowing expression has become more apparent with the current kneeling situation. In 2015, Steelers player William Gay was fined over five thousand dollars due to him donning a pair of purple cleats. These cleats were meant to raise awareness towards domestic violence. This was due to his mother getting killed in that very same act; as it goes without saying that this subject hits close to home. Gay was able to dodge this charge, but it just goes to show the irregular rule enforcement portrayed by the NFL.

At the end of the day, these players have the right to make almost any statement they want. The National Football League will and will not enforce what they see fit. Although these players can continue to kneel during the National Anthem, it will not make a positive statement towards the NFL’s reputation. Football is watched by fans alike to enjoy the sport, not to have harsh politics shoved in their faces.

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