On Sunday Sept. 24, a series of displays protesting the national anthem took place across the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys’ players, coaches, and owners linked arms and knelt across the field. The Pittsburgh Steelers stayed in the tunnel during the anthem. The Jaguars, Dolphins and Lions linked arms while standing for the anthem.

Protests of the national anthem have been a hot topic around the sporting world for a while now. In particular, NFL players have drawn plenty of attention by doing so. Speculation arose following the latest events with a viral statement circulating, claiming that NFL players only began coming onto the field for the national anthem in 2009. The statement also claimed the Department of Defense paid the NFL to have the players take the field as a recruitment tool. In response, former NFL player John Haines said, “That’s crazy.”

“I think you can go look at any game film,” Haines said. “We’re out there before the game starts. You run on the field, you have the national anthem, kick the ball and good to go.”

Pentagon Spokesperson Army Major Dave Eastburn gave a statement to CNN in 2017 that backed up Haines comments. “The [Department of Defence] does not require or request that athletes be on the field during the playing of the national anthem when military members are part of the patriotic opener,” Eastburn said.

Displays of protest began when former San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick opted to sit during the anthem in a game 13 months ago. Later, he transitioned into kneeling rather than sitting in order to respect the veterans of our country. Kaepernick said the reasoning behind his actions is to protest racial oppression in the United States.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people, and people of color,” Kaepernick said in a press conference after first sitting out during the anthem. “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.”

The peaceful protests have not gone without controversy. Many fans have been outraged over the incident and have taken aim at Kaepernick and his counterparts through social media. Things have gotten so blown out of proportion that even President Trump has thrown in his two-cents on Twitter.

The intention of Kaepernick and his fellow protesters is not the problem behind this whole situation. It is, in fact, a just cause that he is protesting. The issue lies in the fact that the meaning behind the protests is getting lost and everyone is focusing on an entirely different subject. Rather than inspiring action to fix the oppression in our country, citizens are just arguing about whether or not players should stand with their hands over their hearts.  

The bottom line behind all of this is that all of our wonderful veterans have fought for the right to freedom. Included in the freedom is the right to peaceful protest. Everything that veterans have done for our country allows these protests to take place.

The players that are kneeling for the anthem aren’t anti-veteran or even anti-American. They are simply speaking out against an issue they feel strongly against. I don’t think they are accomplishing a whole lot, but they are simply exercising their freedoms.

I will always stand for the anthem, but I respect the right of others to do as they please. That’s what makes this country so great: we all have the opportunity to express our feelings however we feel necessary. I think that people need to stop making such a big deal about the protests themselves and pay more attention to why the protests are happening.

Story By
Aaron Peterson for SUU News

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