Kneeling during the anthem: the right way to take a stand

By Dani Miller, Opinions Editor

In Sept. 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, dismayed by the constant injustice plaguing society, took a stand for his brothers and sisters by doing the exact opposite– kneeling.
In an act of protest against police brutality and racial inequality, Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem prior to a pre-season game. Repercussions were harsh.

Ever since Kaepernick’s protest, no National Football League (NFL) team has signed him. Powerful figures, from NFL coaches and players, to the President himself, have criticized him. Kaepernick’s protest has since sparked national debate about free speech and its limits.

In order to form an informed opinion about Kaepernick’s actions, it is important to understand what he is protesting against. According to an interview given by Kaepernick to NFL Media, he asserts that he is not going to show pride in a country that oppresses black people.

According to The Guardian’s database to track police shootings, in 2016, when Kaepernick first took a knee, 266 black people were killed by police. Of these killings, zero officers were convicted for murder, and very few have been indicted.

This is what Kaepernick is protesting; a culture that does not hold police officers accountable. Whether or not someone agrees with his stance or not, he has every right to stick up for his people.
Kaepernicks opponents claim that he should not kneel, as it is disrespectful to the flag.

However, by protesting during the anthem, Kaepernick is doing the exact opposite of disrespecting the flag. There is nothing more quintessentially American than the ability to criticize our country without fear of punishment. If anything, the fact that a demonstration against racism has been widely mistaken for a demonstration against America only further proves how embedded racism is into our society.

There is no more effective way to protest injustice than during the national anthem. Kaepernick has a monumentally large public platform and it is undeniable that he has used it effectively to create conversation about racial issues in our society. If he had protested before or after the game, or perhaps just on social media, then his message would not have so intensely permeated society.

Similarly, many argue that by protesting during the national anthem, Kaepernick is disrespecting the military. It is important to recognize how U.S soldiers fought and died for Kaepernick’s right to take a knee in the first place. It is not disrespectful to utilize the right that so many bled for, but rather, it is patriotic.

The problem with criticizing the methods of Kaepernick’s demonstration is that those criticizing are not providing viable alternatives. Many of the same people criticizing kneeling also criticized Black Lives Matter protesters who marched, blocked traffic, interrupted political rallies and even so much as tweeted. Even though denouncers say they disagree solely with the method of protest, it is made crystal clear that a majority of them, perhaps unconsciously, simply disagree with the protest in general.

Another common criticism surrounding these protests is that it would be much more effective if Kaepernick donated money and physically gave back to communities affected by injustice. One person who agrees with this stance is Kaepernick himself, as he has donated one million dollars to organizations providing for communities at risk.

Whether in school or on a football field, freedom of speech is a valuable right that should be cherished and utilized. Individuals should not be penalized for choosing to sit during the pledge of allegiance. Regardless of one’s views on what Kaepernick’s protesting, the protest in itself, could not be more American.