Around this time last NFL season, fans were burning San Francisco 49ers jerseys with a number 7 and the name “KAEPERNICK” written in bold white letters due to the #TakeAKnee movement. Now, a year later, and with Colin Kaepernick as a free agent, the majority of the NFL stands together to support the #TakeAKnee movement and show the current president and his administration that they are united. The movement began when Kaepernick decided to “take a knee” last season while the National Anthem was performed at a football game. His reasoning for the act was to bring awareness to police brutality against African-Americans, and many in the NFL have followed his lead this season. President Trump has made various statements against the #TakeAKnee movement, which has sparked further controversy about the topic.
Why #TakeAKnee is Not the Solution
By Kenneth Apana-Korley
Coming from an immigrant family, I understand that the struggle minorities face in this country are pressing, troubling, and disparate. But I as I see Americans grapple with these issues, I can’t help look back to where my family came from.In my home country of Ghana, people practically worship Americans—they hold us in such high regard, that when people who live in America talk about injustice, I feel for those people in other countries that don’t have the liberties that we have. America is a great country because of our freedoms, but we should also understand that our struggles are usually not as bad as someone in another country, who isn’t given the vast amount of freedoms that all citizens in this country are given. As someone who has a parent in the military and wants to join the military myself after I graduate from college, I feel like I have a very strong sense of patriotism. I have been on various military bases and quite a few historical battlegrounds; I wish more people would visit a historical battleground sometime and try to put themselves in the shoes of one of the soldiers who died there, or one of the people who lost a loved one to war in order to better understand the impact that it has.
Although many athletes in the NFL are joining the #TakeAKnee movement, others are opposed to the gesture. Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints Quarterback in the NFL, shares my beliefs on the movement. He even went as far as to say that “it’s an oxymoron that you’re sitting down, disrespecting that flag that has given you the freedom to speak out.” [ESPN] Being able to speak out is one thing, and everybody should be able to voice their opinion; however, by sitting or kneeling during the anthem, people are essentially stating that they don’t want to stand for the freedom and independence this country represents.
While much of the economy of this country was built off of the backs of slavery and discrimination, America was also built on the basis of hard work and determination. And while I don’t fully support the aggressive manner in which the president has approached the situation, I do believe that by refusing to stand during the anthem, people are refusing to stand for all of the freedoms and rights that this country symbolizes and was built on. They are refusing to stand for the symbol of the United States of America that brave men and women have fought and died for. They are refusing to honor the sacrifice that people have made in order to grant us the freedoms that we have today.
Why #TakeAKnee Helps Raise Awareness
By Joshua Olujide
“Freedom to Peaceful Protest.” This is a right guaranteed to us as U.S. citizens via the First Amendment. We are granted the right to protest aspects of our society that we do not agree with or would like to change, as long as it’s peaceful and non-disruptive. Unfortunately, we can’t all seem to agree on what exactly defines a peaceful, non-disruptive protest. Some people, such as myself, believe that kneeling down during the National Anthem is a good exercise of peaceful protest. Others, however, believe that it is a sign of utter disrespect to our country, and that there are better alternatives to speaking your mind that don’t involve kneeling.
One important thing to note is that this issue of choosing not to stand for the National Anthem is not solely just about the clarity (or lack thereof) of the First Amendment. On September 1st, 2016, this movement was started by Colin Kaepernick, then a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, for one reason: police brutality. Kaepernick stated at the time: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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.” Kaepernick had had enough of the constant killing of innocent black males in America at the hands of our own police force, so he decided to publicly demonstrate his frustrations. Since the first demonstration, this growing movement has made national news and drawn varied responses from politicians, athletes, and Hollywood celebrities, and, on August 15, 2017, President Trump.
In my opinion, Kaepernick is rightly justified in his indignation. From Freddie Gray to Philando Castile to Trayvon Martin, there have been far too many stories of innocent black men who have been shot and killed for no justifiable reason. Situations like these have started riots, such as the Baltimore riots in 2015, where Black Lives Matter activists destroyed and looted different stores in Baltimore following the killing of Freddie Gray. These have created deep divisions in our country, and new events which have caused the matter of taking a knee to rise again. Take, for example, the Charlottesville riots that occurred in August this year. White-nationalists and Neo-nazis came together and marched through Charlottesville, Virginia, displaying their beliefs to the resistance of Black Lives Matter activists and others who disagreed with them. President Donald Trump commented on this, saying that there were “very fine people on both sides.” But is that really the case? On one side, you have people who were staking their claim as being the superior race, and angrily attacking anyone who said otherwise. On the other side, there were people who were peacefully resisting them. Yet Trump claims that they were both equal, which clearly is not the case.
As an African-American male living in this country, there is a slight aspect of fear that I feel that others don’t have to experience. I’ve learned to act compliant around police officers to avoid any confrontation. I feel more wary around police officers – more concerned about what I’m saying, the way I’m acting – because I’m black. In the year 2017, a young black man feeling that way around the police is not what our flag is supposed to represent.
I can understand why some people would be against the movement to take a knee during the National Anthem, as they may have friends or family who serve in the military and feel that it would be disrespectful to kneel. My belief, however, is that those who serve in the military do so to protect our rights, including our right to peaceful protest. So if anything, we are taking full advantage of being American citizens by choosing to kneel. Nevertheless, the weight of this topic should not be underestimated. Your opinion speaks volumes about your thoughts on our society today. As for me, I fully support #TakeAKnee. And while I hope that you seriously consider my thoughts on the matter, you are ultimately entitled to your own opinion. Just make sure you know what you’re truly standing for.