Kneeling for a Change

NFL players kneel during the National Anthem in protest against police brutality.

“Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight.”

These words are ones we hear that have us rise to our feet, remove our hats, and honor our country as well as those who have fought for our freedom.

In recent news, the National Football League (NFL) has received a lot of attention on players instead, kneeling during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality.

This began when Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, first took a knee during the anthem before a game in September 2016.

Colin Kaepernick kneeling (right)

Playing the national anthem was not necessarily universal until 1942, when they first started playing it for Major League Baseball. This later was adopted by other professional sports leagues. However having said that the NFL did not require players to be on the field until 2009.

Since Kaepernick first kneeled, many NFL players have followed behind doing the same. Raleigh Mckenzie, former NFL Center for the Redskins, Eagles, Chargers, and Packers, has had much experience playing in the league from 1980–2000 saying, “I never did that in my time, but nobody did that. We never thought to do that, people just saw us just as athletes,” says Mckenzie.

Raleigh Mackenzie (number 63)

Mckenzie feels that players should have the right to protest in this way and goes on to say, “I understand why they kneel or stand arm and arm, I am not against it because that’s their freedom of expression and they should use their platform as athletes to do so,” says McKenzie.

Many public figures have made statements on this situation as well. President Donald Trump even spoke out about this controversy saying that the NFL should be firing anyone who kneels during the anthem.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones agreed with Trump’s hand in the matter, saying that he would not tolerate protests by players that he considers is “disrespectful to the flag.” Speaking out after their game against Green Bay, Jones stated that anyone on his team that “disrespects the flag” will not play.

Zach Criswell, senior Offensive Lineman at Hampden-Sydney College, with an opposing stance on this issue spoke out about this as well. “I think the players are attempting to address social issues and create change using their platform and that’s admirable but I don’t like the position it puts other members of the team in,” says Criswell.

As far as the Hampden-Sydney Tigers kneeling or protesting with those doing so in the NFL they aren’t out on the field during the anthem to do so however if teammates did decide to kneel Criswell says, “I’d have to respect their decision, but I’d hope it would be something we could talk about in a team meeting and come to a consensus on how we’d all handle it if we knew we’d be faced with the decision of whether to stand or kneel.”