When NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling for the national anthem in 2016, he wasn’t trying to disrespect the country. He was simply trying to start a conversation.
At first, it was a mere sidebar to an exciting football season. Then, more and more athletes began following suit. So, a year later, here we stand, right in the middle of this nationwide craze that has President Donald Trump calling NFL players “sons of bitches” and every team in the league releasing statements about its stance on the issue.
I speak to you as a white male from an upper-middle class neighborhood in Monmouth County. I can tell you that I have never personally faced inequality and have never been oppressed.
Yet, I stand by anyone who kneels during the national anthem.
We are privileged to live in the United States. With all the turmoil and terror going on in other parts of the world, this has never been more true. But that doesn’t mean our country is perfect. We have a lot to improve upon.
Some of these professional football players are viewed as heroes by children and adults alike. These athletes know the platform they have is a mighty one, and they should use this to their advantage. You could even argue that an NFL star has more influence on the average American than our current president.
One of the beauties of living in this country is our First Amendment right to freedom of speech, which includes the ability to peacefully protest. Heck, you could literally set fire to the American flag, and you’d be protected under the Constitution. All these athletes are doing is quietly kneeling and trying to send a political message in a respectful way.
Don’t give me the garbage of saying these men are disrespecting veterans. Yes, for over 200 years people have fought and died for the flag we salute during the Star-Spangled Banner, but that flag is just a symbol of our country and its values.
We believe that all men are created equal, but imagine being an African-American veteran who returns home to find that nothing he or she fought for was true. Instead, police officers are getting paid leave for shooting unarmed blacks, neo-Nazis are marching the streets in Virginia college towns, and we have a president whose biggest contributions are tweets with spelling errors.
It seems as though many people love freedom of speech, that is, until you say or do something they
Football games don’t suddenly have to become political rallies. Don’t worry about what each player is doing in a pregame ceremony. Focus on the product you see after kickoff.
Just because you feel strongly about something doesn’t make your opinion right. Just because you stand during the national anthem doesn’t make you more patriotic than the next guy.
This isn’t about the personal decision that you would make. This is about giving everyone the right to do as they wish.
We are all Americans, and we shouldn’t take that for granted. Let’s continue to have these meaningful discussions.
This editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News and was written by the executive editor, Brandon Scalea.
Printed in the 10/4/17 issue.