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Should Athletes Kneel During the National Anthem?: Point

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Antonia Le, Editor-in-Chief

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   Isn’t it crazy how time flies? Thirteen months ago, then-49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick got booed for kneeling during the national anthem in San Diego’s own Qualcomm Stadium (cbssports.com). Now, his act of “taking the knee” has spread through the NFL, and even into the MLB. Unfortunately, the boos have gotten louder too. But the players taking the knee deserve our respect, not our boos. They’re not rude or unpatriotic; they’re using their platforms to speak up for a worthy cause.

   In these exhausting times, we all need a break. Some want football to be their break, and they often criticize athletes for taking the knee and mixing politics with athletics (where apparently, it doesn’t belong). However, the very fact that the national anthem plays during sporting events makes the events political already. Playing the national anthem before a game began during World War II to encourage patriotism. According to Vox Media, it “…helped remind sports audiences that their government needed them desperately” (vox.com). The national anthem was played to get people involved with the war, and war is simply a product of politics gone awry. If the national anthem at a football game in 1945 was political, why can’t a national anthem at a football game in 2017 be?

   In fact, the very act of taking a knee is meant to be as respectful for veterans as mobilizing for the war is. “We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy,” said 49ers Safety Eric Reid in an op-ed for the New York Times. “It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest” (nytimes.com).

   Since its inception, taking the knee has been about combating institutionalized racism and police brutality against Black people. According to statistics released by the FBI, 31 percent of killings perpetrated by police officers in 2012 were against Black people, despite the ethnic group only comprising of 13 percent of the American population. Additionally, Black inmates make up a disproportionate amount of prison populations, often getting longer sentences than white inmates who have committed the same crime (fbi.gov).

   In this land of the free, Black people are less free than White people. When they’re doing good, they’re ignored or killed. When they’re doing bad, they’re over-sentenced or killed. But Black football players have privilege. They make up 70 percent of the NFL, according to the Chicago Tribune (chicagotribune.org). Their celebrity status, along with football’s prominent place in American culture, means that they can’t just be ignored. Why shouldn’t they use their privilege to speak up?

   So what if taking the knee makes you feel uncomfortable?  Newsflash: that means it’s doing its job. “If you look at history, history will tell you that there is never going to be an ‘appropriate’ way to protest. That’s why it’s a protest, because it’s supposed to make people uncomfortable, it’s supposed to make people mad, it’s supposed to force the conversation to happen,” said History Teacher Eddie Hernandez.

  “Taking the knee is a good start. It’s not violent, and it shows that we want change,” said Junior Varsity Football Player Anthony Rodriguez. “You have a right to take the knee, and that right was fought for by a soldier.”

   Maybe, at the end of the day, taking the knee is just the modern version of the Boston Tea Party. Sure, you might miss your tea, but isn’t it more important for people to speak out against injustice?

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Should Athletes Kneel During the National Anthem?: Point