NFL teams all across the country made headlines this weekend for a wide-spread protest. Some players and teams chose to sit, kneel, link arms, or simply not appear for the national anthem, making a statement that sent waves throughout the country. But what has also spread are feelings of disgust or disdain with the players’ actions, leading to boycotts by many NFL fans, and a slew of comments from the president.
Alongside these feelings come misconceptions about what this protest is truly about. This is not about the military. This is not about Trump. This began before Trump was in office, as Colin Kaepernick, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, first sat out for the national anthem on August 14, 2016, five months before Trump would be inaugurated. This is an issue that runs deeper than the president, it runs deeper than a flag.
One thing that needs to be made abundantly clear is that this is about racism; this is about speaking for those who have lost their voice. This is about the way our country treats people of color, and the innocent lives lost because of it. As Kaepernick told NFL Media last year, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color.”
The issues at hand are being erased by comments by the President (among others) such as, “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!” However, as Kaepernick, the players, and many NFL CEOs and representatives have stated, this is about race. This is about social injustice, and to discredit that is exactly the reason why these individuals have chosen to protest.
Another important distinction to make is that not taking part in the anthem, not standing for the flag, is not a slander on our armed forces. As President Trump Tweeted, “Courageous Patriots have fought and died for our great American Flag --- we MUST honor and respect it!” However, the military isn’t fighting for a flag. They’re not fighting for a song or a pledge. They’re fighting for us. They risk their lives overseas each day to protect not just our nation, but the people within it. While they work to protect us overseas, we must work to protect each other from within, but holding ourselves to a higher standard when it comes to the lives and rights of everyone we share this nation with. The players who choose not to stand or to link arms during the anthem are trying to draw attention to the fact that not every life in America is protected equally.
Now, whether you agree or disagree with the stand NFL players have chosen to take, I urge you to pause. Take a second, take a step back, and listen. Listen to what the players, what the coaches, what the voices crying out have to say. Listen to those who are oppressed. Take their experiences seriously. And most importantly, remember that the lives of others are more important than a flag and an anthem will ever be.
For more thoughts on #TakingAKnee in the NFL, check out this Washington Post article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/09/24/colin-kaepernick-vs-tim-tebow-a-tale-of-two-christianities-on-its-knees/?utm_term=.9c2f545577ca