NFL players kneel to take a stand against social injustice

Anjanae Crump, Editor-in-Chief

Celebrities garner the attention of millions, and many use their platforms to take a stand on social issues. However, when taking a stand involves kneeling during the national anthem, those participating receive lots of negative feedback.

Colin Kaepernick made headlines after kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest against racially charged police brutality and oppression of people of color. Since then, players on various teams across different sports have joined the movement–sparking reactions that range from support to disapproval.

“I think that it’s something that should be done in unity,” said freshman Michael Bankston. “Players kneeling in the NFL raise awareness, as these are superstars with millions of followers who watch them every day. To kneel down and say that we aren’t going to stand for America’s attitude toward different races makes a statement. So, I definitely agree with players kneeling down.”

However, many citizens have shown disdain for the action. Some refuse to attend football games or broadcast them at their business establishments, including one of the managers of Melba’s in New Orleans.

“I have respect for Kaepernick, because he actually did sacrifice his career to do this, [but] the whole ‘I’m not going to stand while America oppresses people’ thing –  that’s the part I felt was controversial,” said junior Ashley Jaxson*. “I personally don’t feel oppressed in America. I’m not going to say all black people don’t feel oppressed; I’m just not going to identify myself in that group. So, that’s the part I don’t really care for.”

President Donald Trump has publicly expressed his discontent with the NFL, even informally suggesting that protesting players be fired, calling them “sons of bitches.” The statement made an incendiary issue even more volatile.

“Dude, you’re a president,” Jaxson said. “You already have people who don’t like you [and] have legit problems with you … and you’re just adding fuel to the fire.”

“You could be respectful and say, ‘I hear you. What do you want to do? How do you want me to address this situation?’ But no, instead you say, ‘If I were you, I’d get those sons of a bitches fired.’ So, you’re insulting the players for practicing their first amendment right, which you’re supposed to protect, and you’re also insulting their mothers – that’s classy. But then again, when is Trump ever classy?”

Bankston called Trump’s handling of the situation “completely unprofessional.” Bankston believes there should be no repercussions against players who wish to express themselves.  

“It seems like a slippery slope,” said graduate student Al Wilton*. “If they start firing players for expressing political beliefs, where does it stop?”

Jaxson believed it would be a form of censorship to fire players or defund their teams simply because not everyone agrees with their message.

“Everyone’s really upset about Kaepernick protesting and everyone kneeling, [but] I mean, what do you want them to do? Do you want them to go into the city and burn stuff down? I personally don’t have a problem with it because the whole protest is peaceful,” Jaxson said. “It could be way worse. It could be like Dallas again … Baton Rouge … Milwaukee, but it’s not.”

Kneeling during the national anthem upsets people because they believe it is disrespectful to the troops who fight for this country. However, there’s more to the story. “It’s not about disrespecting the flag or the nation, but bringing attention to what’s been going on for centuries in America,” Wilton said.

While Bankston and Wilton agreed that kneeling is an effective act against social injustice, Jaxson did not. “The kneeling thing at this point has become kind of ineffective, because everyone’s got their own voice and it gets distracted from the main point,” Jaxson said. “Now players are kneeling because they just don’t like Trump … [and] he just doesn’t care.”

“I think that as long as the players are following the football guidelines, then the NFL [ and] Roger Goddell should have absolutely nothing to say,” Bankston said.

Wilton pointed out that the issue may not be that simple to the NFL. “I mean, they are an entertainment business,” he said. “So, if the audience isn’t happy, they’re not making money and that’s really what it’s all about. It’s not necessarily about sportsmanship and teamwork. It’s about billionaires getting richer.”

Whether kneeling is embraced or despised, its relevance is more widespread than ever and the act continues to gain lots of publicity.

“It’s a movement and it’s getting us talking, so in that regard, it does work,” Wilton said,

*Name has been changed