Politics on the field?

The recent and controversial NFL protests are part of a long tradition of US athletes using their fame and profile to battle injustices. Recently, we see a very controversial protest being held by professional NFL players. National Football League players have decided to kneel during the playing of the national anthem to protest the police brutality as well as racial inequality. Originally introduced by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who believed that standing for the flag only shows pride in a country that oppresses black people. Throughout more football games we see more names of football players and teammates following Kaepernick’s protest. I think this is a very empowering and strong way to show what you’re protesting for. Considering how widespread and famous football seems to be here in America a lot of fans might be in debate of how important and serious police brutality and racial injustices really is, or even how unnecessary kneeling might be.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees had a couple of comments himself on why he “wholeheartedly disagrees with Colin Kaepernick’s method of protesting.” Brees speaks out to the media on why Kaepernick’s decision on sitting while the playing of the national anthem was simply wrong. Brees’ strongly comes to show how the American Flag is sacred. The point that Brees mainly tries to bring across is the inconsideration of what not standing for the national anthem actually means. He means that disrespecting the flag isn’t a way to protest simply because all it shows is inconsideration and disrespectfulness. He states that there are more ways to protest and speak against this problem without being disrespectful to the United States flag. Brees’ statement in ESPN blogs stated

The great thing about this country is that we have the freedoms that allow you to speak out openly about any issue. So I’m not commenting on the issue itself because any person has the right to speak out on any issue they want. That’s the great thing about being an American. But the American flag is what represents those freedoms. It represents the very freedom that Colin Kaepernick gets the opportunity to exercise by speaking out his opinion in a peaceful manner about that issue[…] Like, it’s an oxymoron that you’re sitting down, disrespecting that flag that has given you the freedom to speak out.

What Brees’ brings into play here is the idea that being American is about appreciating the freedom and rights given to us. By this, we should be respecting the flag simply because the flag is the foundation that we are independent and free. The flag is the most basic form of freedom in the United States that signifies, “vigilance, perseverance, and justice.” But does it really stand for all that it is for if it’s only protecting those whom are a certain race, group, or nationality?

The kneeling of NFL players has taken a toll on various fans as well. As we hear from James Robbins in USA TODAY who strongly believes that political problems should not be dealt on the field. In his article, NFL commits suicide by Trump with politically correct protest Robbins argues that these current protest have simply just caused divisibility and they have taken the fun out of actual Sunday Football. He states, “Sports are supposed to be fun, but these protests are divisive, distracting and pointless. They are a public relations nightmare that the NFL shows no sign of stopping. Goodell and others want to preach about free expression, but most fans probably prefer their football free of guilt-tripping toxic politics.” I agree that nobody wants to argue politics while watching football.

A very different perspective from our last two comes from David French’s piece in National Review. In French’s article, I Understand Why They Knelt argues against Brees’ thought process. His main argument being that idolizing the American flag is in fact wrong and taking a stance for those who can’t do more is more American than standing up and holding your hand on your heart while the anthem plays. He very strongly argues,

“We do not and should not worship the flag. As a nation we stand in respect for the national anthem and stand in respect for the flag not simply because we were born here or because it’s our flag. We stand in respect because the flag represents a specific set of values and principles: that all men are created equal and that we are endowed with our Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

This meaning that the idea of why we stand for the flag is more than just being American and showing American pride. It’s to show that this flag along with the Constitution is actually doing its job: to protect the people. French also states,”If we no longer fight to secure the same rights for others that we demand for ourselves, we become more tribal, and America becomes less exceptional.” I think what this shows is how taking a stand for others goes a long way. Just because you’re not affected by it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. People are almost naive to the idea of inequality and injustices.

I agree with David French’s beliefs and I also understand why they knelt. I believe the flag doesn’t stand for what everyone says it does. The injustices are there. Inequalities are there. Racism is there! It’s not oblivious to kneel to the flag it’s oblivious to act as if everything is fine and expect people to just deal with it. I’d kneel to. Hope for respect towards the flag when the president respects all gender, beliefs, and races.

Drew Brees statements on Kaepernick I would disagree with the most simply because meanwhile the flag represents freedom it does not distribute this freedom equally. And that’s what most people don’t get. People of a certain race face different inequalities than others. There’s different factors to this. Where you live matters. The color of your skin matters, unfortunately. Samuel Sinyangue shows statistics on mapping police violence proves that, “police killed at least 309 black people in the US in 2016 and 210 in 2017.” It also states that black people are 3x more likely to be killed by police than white people. And that’s why they kneel.

To conclude, NFL players were right to kneel for their beliefs. I respect them for taking such a big vow in representing the protest of police brutality and racial inequality. Whether people agree with it or not it is gaining a lot of attention and that’s one of the things they were shooting for.