Taking a Knee: Free Speech or Disrespect?

By Dylan Hammond:

To some he’s a hero.

Others despise him.

But it is undeniable that NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has become one of the most influential and controversial people today.

In the past few years Kaepernick has started a protest movement against racial inequality, especially to that of police shootings of unarmed black men. He protested by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, which precedes every NFL football game. This movement has inspired many others, primarily NFL players, to also take a knee.

The national anthem has often been viewed as a way of honoring the military and veterans. So when one refuses to stand up during it, it can cause a great deal of controversy. “[kneeling] is a disrespect to the people who have died for the country.” said Logan Parrish (12).

Even President Donald Trump has responded to the protests and called out the NFL to fire anyone who did not stand for the anthem. The next few weeks after Trump’s remarks featured even more protesters, many protesting against President Trump. While kneeling is sometimes interpreted as disrespectful, Kaepernick has made it clear that the protests are not against the military or veterans in any way .

“Thinking that your country has things to change is not necessarily a disrespectful thing.” said Ana Borg (11).

This protest is yet another example of common mix of politics and sports. In the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, black American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos both raised a black-gloved fist representing Black Power while on the podium as the national anthem played. This caused quite a controversy back home in the US. The two sprinters were suspended from the US team and received many death threats.

Sports have often been used as a platform to protest because of the great amount of viewership it will receive. But it also comes with a great deal of backlash, as many may not agree with or understand the protest.

“Kaepernick has the right to protest, but the way he is doing it is not the most efficient way. I would rather him use things like social media and talk shows. He may not get as much attention, but it would be more respectful and people wouldn’t hate him,” said Mason Olsen (11).

Most recently Kaepernick has partnered up with Nike for their 30th anniversary campaign. This campaign features an ad with a close up of Kaepernick’s face, with the words “Believe in something. Even if it mean sacrificing everything.”

Kaepernick has not been signed to a team for a few seasons now, and he believes it is because of the protesting he has done. This campaign has caused a great deal of support and backlash, including some people destroying their Nike merchandise.

Whether you agree or disagree with Kaepernick’s choices, something we can all agree on is that it is indeed his right to protest. This comes from the First Amendment to the Constitution which states of the freedom of speech in America. That is something wonderful about our country; the fact that we can discuss issues openly with different opinions.