NFL players have the right to kneel during the national anthem as a peaceful protest for change

Kneeling, taking a knee, is an action that can be done in prayer, when proposing to a significant other or during sporting events when a player gets injured. However, recently in the National Football League kneeling is being used as a form of protest during the national anthem.

On Sept. 23, President Donald Trump tweeted his reaction to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem saying that, “he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or country)” and should be “fired” by NFL director Roger Goodell if they do not stand. Other remarks towards players who kneel were made by Donald Trump at a rally in Alabama on Sept. 22 that have been received negatively by players and fans.

By kneeling, players are simply expressing their dissatisfaction toward the social climate in the United States, feeling as if America is not staying true to the meaning of the American flag and the national anthem. Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was one of the first players who utilized kneeling as a protest technique back in 2016.

“I was not going to stand up and show pride in a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said in an interview with NFL media in August 2016.

While players still take a knee during the national anthem to protest the injustice in America, a count of 130 players across the first nine games of league on Sept. 24 took a knee in defiance of Trump’s comments at his rally and on Twitter regarding kneeling.

Anyone from NFL football players to high school men’s varsity basketball players have every right to take a knee during the national anthem. While President Donald Trump and many others see it as a disrespectful act toward the flag, the country and military troops, exercising the right to kneel in protest is doing exactly what the American founding fathers wanted Americans to do when they felt the need to change an issue. NFL players taking a knee is a peaceful protest where they are wishing for change in how minorities are treated and how they should not be insulted for exercising their First Amendment rights. They do not mean it in any disrespect toward the United States, in fact they are doing it because they desire better for America which in itself is respecting America’s core values of freedom and equal treatment for all.

Donald Trump’s notion of wanting to fire those who kneel during the national anthem can be deemed unconstitutional if NFL director Roger Goodell follows through with Trump’s wishes. The NFL players are standing up for what they believe in and expressing it in a way that brings no harm to anyone. They are using their right to freedom of speech to voice their stance. NFL players or any employed person in any field is not allowed to be fired under the Constitution for exercising their rights.

Also, kneeling in protest during the national anthem is not disrespectful toward veterans and current American soldiers. The members of the American military fought and are fighting to protect American freedoms and rights. By taking a knee in peaceful protest, NFL players are doing exactly what they are allowed to do as Americans because American troops have battled and died to protect their freedom to do so.

Some American citizens are offended by the protest due to the “disrespect” it shows toward “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Yet, many of America’s own citizens constantly disrespect the flag without even knowing it according to the U.S. Flag Code chapter 10: Respect for flag.

In the U.S. Flag Code: Chapter 10.176C it states, “The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.” However, at many NFL football games a large American flag that covers a portion of the field or in some instances the whole field, is rolled out flat and held horizontally during the national anthem. This is something the NFL does habitually, yet no one acknowledges this constant and consistent disrespect; many actually see it as a moving act of patriotism. No one cared about that issue, but controversy has sparked over NFL players exercising their rights in front of the flag only because it’s a protest, a protest majority of Americans do not relate to or understand.

Collegiate football team Northwestern had the American flag as a part of their uniform for a game back in 2013 as a sign of respect toward the military. While the meaning behind their uniforms was meant to be respectful, the team broke the rule outlined in U.S Flag Code: Chapter 10.176J: “No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.” The football team ironically disrespected the flag, yet hardly anyone made the uniforms an issue due to people picking and choosing what is respectful and what is disrespectful to the flag/anthem despite the official code.

The “Respect for Flag” section covers nothing about kneeling or sitting or standing. The only time the code mentions anything regarding how a person should compose themselves during the anthem is where the code states that people “should face the flag and stand at the attention with their hand over their heart.” The code does not explicitly say a person is required to stand. This is not mentioned or outlined in the “Respect for Flag” subcategory, thus making kneeling an act of conduct violation, not an act of disrespect. However, the flag has been disrespected numerous times by the NFL as illustrated previously, and by citizens themselves through wearing clothing with the American flag and/or using disposable cutlery with the American flag printed on it, yet everyone fails to acknowledge the blatant disrespect due to ignorance and subjective patriotism.

Instead of idolizing the flag and anthem themselves, we as citizens have the duty to ensure that the flag and anthem mean what they claim to mean. By kneeling, NFL players are drawing attention to the fact that America is ignoring and contradicting what the anthem and flag stand for and are protesting for a change.

The national anthem and the American flag are symbols for what this nation stands for and what makes America so great. These symbols serve as a reminder that we as Americans should actively exercise our First Amendment rights, even when deemed unpopular in society’s eyes. NFL players like Colin Kaepernick and A’s player Bruce Maxwell are patriots for standing up for what they think is right and standing up for the reinstatement of equality and freedom for all. These players are utilizing their elevated status in society to illuminate the normalization of racism in America and are demanding for that to morph into an attitude that is more accepting and equal. They are not protesting America. They are not protesting the anthem. They are not protesting soldiers and veterans. They are not protesting for self-publicity. These players are protesting for change in how society treats people, people who have basic human rights that should not be violated just because of the color of their skin.

Let these men take a knee. Let these men exercise their First Amendment rights. Let these men catalyze a change. Do not threaten to fire them and do not call them obscenities just because they are doing something radical that is for a good cause that you don’t personally like. Equality is a necessity, and these players are doing anything in their power that is civil in order to get what America has promised since the very beginning: equal protection under the law to all of its citizenry.