Maybe National Anthem Protests in Pro Sports Aren’t Disrespectful

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BY ANTHONY SANTINO

Perspectives Editor

I’m usually hard-pressed to think of a topic when it’s my turn to write an editorial, but the National Anthem protests in professional sports and the controversy surrounding them feels right for this one.

First off, let’s start with the facts that back up the basis of my opinions on this matter.

Colin Kaepernick, currently an unsigned professional football quarterback who started the trend of kneeling during the National Anthem last year, originally sat down during the anthem in protest of racial inequality in the United States. However, he changed his routine to a kneel after meeting with former NFL player Nate Boyer, who was a Green Beret in the Army.

Boyer, who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was upset with Kaepernick for sitting down during the anthem. He thought it was a sign of disrespect towards those in the military. However, the two met and found that Kaepernick “taking a knee” would get the point of his protest across without disrespecting the anthem or the troops.

That’s coming from an Army veteran. The example of Nate Boyer shows that not all veterans see the kneeling protests as a sign of disrespect. On my own time, I’ve come across numerous tweets and online articles written by veterans who support the kneeling protests.

“We were talking to [Boyer] about how we can get the message back on track and not take away from the military . . . [and]keep the focus on what the issues really are,” said Kaepernick.

Although now a free agent and not involved with current on-field protests, Kaepernick’s message has struck a chord that plays on. A host of athletes, fans, and critics across all sports agree with him, and so the debate continues.

In my opinion, I see nothing wrong with the protests. Many of my relatives work in law enforcement and I’ll never be ungrateful for the work done by so many police officers across the country.

However, that doesn’t mean we don’t see instances of social injustice related to the police in some tragic situations. I think a rational person would agree that such examples of malpractice need accountability, and that’s part of what Kaepernick was arguing from the start. In case you haven’t seen recent news, our social and judicial structures aren’t so perfect and fair for every American—especially for people of color.

As a young white man from a middle-class family, I’m well aware of the social privileges that come with those labels. I’m lucky to not have to go through profiling that people of color face on a daily basis. I see it from an outsider’s perspective, and it’s something I feel we can’t ignore as a country.

All citizens should feel as secure in themselves as possible, and we’re not quite there yet. That’s why peaceful protest and dialogue is better than silence. Silence is convenient for someone in my shoes, but convenience doesn’t mean that all is well.

Colin Kaepernick didn’t harm anyone. Deciding to take a knee during a song that celebrates our country does not mean he hates our country. It means that he wants to see it at its best, and so do I.

 

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