But not for the reasons you think!
Disrespect or a silent protest against discrimination? For many Americans, this question has come up all too often in this debate over the latest in a long list of controversies surrounding the recent trend of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.
Beginning with former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and escalating to a league-wide movement in which entire teams are now kneeling as a show of solidarity, this issue has drawn even the ire of President Trump, who recently launched a volley of inflammatory tweets deriding the players and calling for their being fired.
For these NFL players and the people who support them, their actions are a show of their opposition to the racial inequality that still remains in this nation. Citing examples of deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police and the prominence of the growing Black Lives Matter movement, these players have remained firm in standing behind their actions as a way of speaking out against the lingering racist culture in the United States.
However, for many other Americans, the actions of such NFL players are less a protest against racism and more a sign of disrespect towards the American flag and national anthem. For these citizens, there is a much better method of protesting for one’s beliefs than kneeling during what they consider to be a sacred ceremony that should be left undisturbed by divisive political issues. These actions are seen as unpatriotic – a desecration of the national flag and anthem.
So, then, how should this issue be viewed? Disrespect for the anthem or a protest against the racist culture that plagues our nation?
The first thing to keep in mind is that this issue has been significantly overblown by opponents of such actions. It should be clear that the NFL players who kneeled during the anthem did not intend disrespect as the main thing to take away from their actions. The meaning behind their actions are obvious – an opposition to racial injustice and a raising of awareness to the many issues our country faces.
However, despite this, it is still clear that such an act may still be taken as offensive. Although the action of kneeling during the anthem may not have malicious intent, the impact of such an act is secondary to the negative optics of the whole thing to many other Americans.
In other words, although the intentions behind kneeling during the national anthem are good, they may still be taken offensively by many Americans. These players meant no disrespect by their actions – all they were doing is exercising their free speech in a protest against a very real problem in our nation – racism. However, because their actions do have the potential to offend many people, the best thing for these NFL players to do would be to, out of their own volition, be the better men and find a different form of protest that gets the same meaning across – one that does not result in a misunderstanding among their fans.