NFL Protests Are American Right: Student Perspective on Kaepernick, Protesting, and Patriotism

By Katie Bedard
Elm Staff Writer

Over a year ago, San Francisco 49er’s player Colin Kaepernick made headlines for kneeling during the National Anthem, causing outrage across the nation. The resurgence of controversy in the media surrounding these type of protests comes mainly from statements posted by President Donald Trump. He tweeted on Sept. 23 arguing that NFL players should not be allowed to “disrespect our great American flag (or country) and should stand for the National Anthem,” and went on to say “If not, YOU’RE FIRED.” What Trump doesn’t seem to understand about these protestors is that what they’re doing is inherently American.

Our president believes that these protesters, who are merely refusing to stand for the anthem, are a disgrace to the nation. Those who agree with him argue that these players’ refusal to stand is highly disrespectful to the men and women who serve in the armed forces. Others disagree with that notion, believing that disrespect to the military is not the intention.

“I really think that, when the announcer in the stadium says, ‘Rise to honor our veterans,’ by no means is Kaepernick, or anyone taking a knee, in any way wanting to dishonor the service of police officers, or people who are fighting in our wars,” said former NFL player and NASA astronaut Leland Melvin in an interview on WBUR with Here & Now’s Robin Young. “But it’s an injustice that’s happening in our streets, it’s an inequality, it’s things that have been stemmed from slavery and the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, all of these foundational documents that define our democracy. That’s what matters.”

Leland Melvin, former NFL player, who is now a NASA astronaut, supports the protesters’ right to kneel during the national anthem.
Leland Melvin, former NFL player, who is now a NASA astronaut, supports the protesters’ right to kneel during the national anthem.

Trump’s harsh stance against these protestors further escalates divisions among the American people. Many already felt outraged at Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va. It’s horrific that Trump was more willing to make the very people advocating for the genocide of other humans appear to be more reasonable then these players.

Though Trump claims that his outrage comes from a place of respect for veterans and service people, California Representative Adam Schiff, and others find this stance hypocritical given some of Trump’s past statements.

Schiff said, “If a person wants the privilege of serving as president, they shouldn’t be allowed to disrespect military heroes who were taken prisoner,” in regards to the comments Trump made during the election race about Sen. John McCain being a prisoner of war.

By peacefully taking a knee before games, the players are trying to create a conversation about the injustices that plague people of color in our country. They’re not covering their faces, setting cars on fire, and calling for violence against other groups of people. They are exercising their rights as American citizens.

By attempting to silence these players’ voices and advocating that the NFL remove anyone who doesn’t stand, Trump shows how little he cares about the issues being raised by these protests, as well as the very rights we as Americans hold dear.

If anything, Trump only proves that there are still flaws within our system which need attention. It should be the goal of the U.S. and the office of the president to create the type of change that allows people from all walks of life to proudly stand up and feel like they’re treated as equal members in their country.  If there really were nothing about this country to fix, these players wouldn’t be kneeling in the first place.

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