Taking a Knee in the World of Sports

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There has been a recent controversial phenomenon in the sports world that is making various newspaper headlines. Out of protest against racism and social injustice, many athletes decided to take a knee during the reciting of the national anthem. In 2016, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the first to kneel, and it did not take long until many other athletes caught on and started doing the same. This act is seen by many as disrespect to the country’s honor, and even unconstitutional.

Early on this year, only a couple of NFL athletes would take a knee during the anthem. This bothered some people, but it wasn’t so common as to make a big deal about it. However, it didn’t take long before many others followed suit. Eventually, entire NFL teams all kneeled during the anthem. Nearly half of the San Francisco 49ers, almost all of the Buffalo Bills, and the entire Saints and Ravens team kneeled during week four.

What is the reason for the kneeling and seeming disrespect to the country’s flag? Well, most of the players who are kneeling are black athletes who are upset about the racism in this country and feel they are being discriminated against because of the color of their skin. They are upset about police brutality, and they feel that because they are black, they are more likely to be suspected of crime. And in some cases, they are correct.

On September 6, when cops responded to the threat of a shooting in Las Vegas , they yelled for everyone to stay put. However, NFL player on the Seattle Seahawks, Michael Bennett, did not obey. Police were forced to pin him to the ground and threaten him with a gun to his head. In video footage released, Bennett is heard screaming, “I wasn’t doing nothing man! I was here with my friends!” He claims the cops stopped him for “being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Later, when Bennett proved himself innocent and was released, many football players became furious, causing more players to kneel. They believe that others, like Bennett, are only being suspected because they are black. Therefore, many players don’t want to stand during the national anthem to respect the country’s pride. In addition, by protesting the anthem, the athletes are trying to make a point and express how they feel. Many determined players will not stop kneeling until they feel their voices are heard and they are no longer victims of racism.

Other Americans are disgusted by this act of protest. They believe that although one is allowed to express and protest any beliefs whenever and wherever they choose, kneeling during a national football game – especially during the national anthem – is a major disrespect to the country’s pride and honor.

In addition to the vast amount of Americans who are angry about this issue, the president is also furious about the NFL kneeling. On his personal twitter account, Trump tweeted numerous harsh responses about the protests. He stated that, “the issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!” The president believes that this is disrespectful and insulting towards the country’s flag and honor. He made it very clear that he definitely does condone the kneeling in any way. Trump believes that the athletes should be forced to stand during the anthem. He’s urging NFL owners to dismiss all players who are not respecting the flag. He tweeted that, “Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy!”

The phenomenon of kneeling is spreading to other sports and teams. However, there are coaches who condemn this. Gyree Durante, a student at Division III Albright College in Pennsylvania, was cut from his football team for taking a knee during the anthem. It was a team decision to kneel during the coin toss but still stand during the national anthem. Despite previously agreeing to this, Durante still kneeled during the anthem. His coach and teammates were upset at him from going against a team decision and felt they could no longer trust him. The student does not regret doing what he did and disrespecting his teammates and the country. “I was just taught you fight for what you believe in and you don’t bow to anyone…I believe heavily in this. So I decided to fight for it,” says Durante.

Yet people are still fed up with this controversial act. They believe that all Americans have the responsibility to stand during the national anthem out of respect for the country, despite the circumstances. Even NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, said, “Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem,” noting, “it is an important moment in our game.” According to this opinion, it is fair that these people want to express their equality and stand up for themselves against racism, but they should do it off the field where they are not simultaneously disrespecting the country.