Opinion: Kaepernick and other kneeling football players deserve our respect


WSPN’s Amira and Tamira English share their opinions on NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, a series of protests started by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016.

Amira English and Tamira English

The National Anthem echoes throughout the stadium. A football player takes a knee, arms delicately placed in his lap. His face laid serious, eyes positioned straight ahead. The fans stare at him with looks of disbelief, disapproval, astonishment and confusion. He holds his head high and bold, shoulders broad. His voluminous afro the embodiment of his movement. His stance remains strong and dominant, content with his decision. He seemed to kneel alone, when in reality, his ancestors were kneeling right beside him, as if they were proud parents.

The courageous football player kneeling is Colin Kaepernick. Yes, Kaepernick is courageous, not the unpatriotic, impudent rebel that Donald Trump tried to portray him and other players as for kneeling. There is nothing disrespectful about football players kneeling during the national anthem. In fact, some veterans actually agree with their decision to do so. Also, NFL players didn’t always stand and salute the flag on the sideline for the national anthem. It wasn’t until 2009 that players were mandated to be on the field during the national anthem for every game. It is believed that the Pentagon paid upwards of $6.8 million in taxpayer dollars to the NFL in order to honor and pay tribute to the military. Do you think we should have to pay professional sports players to honor our soldiers? Is that not just common courtesy?

We could also argue that the singing of the national anthem during sports games and other events is quite insensitive. Most people don’t know that Francis Scott Key, the composer of the anthem, was a slave-owner and white supremacist himself. He once famously said that black people were “…a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.” Would you want to stand for a song written by a man who has discriminated against your race?

Although those facts about the history of the national anthem are important, they aren’t the actual reason why Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel on August 27, 2016. Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful, silent protest was actually a tactic to get people talking about police brutality. He knew that once his protest gained national attention, he would face tremendous backlash, but he was willing to face defamation, death threats and a number of other horrible things in order to spread awareness for the cause. This shows integrity and persistence. He and other players who kneeled are non-conformists who deserve to be saluted.

It’s bizarre that the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, decided to turn the entire country against the football players who decided to silently protest. They were simply practicing their inalienable right to have the freedom of speech. During his campaign, Trump referenced the Constitution on several occasions, so you would think he’d be more familiar with the guidelines of the Constitution. It’s disheartening to see Kaepernick slandered and bashed across the internet and in tabloids on a daily basis. It’s even more disheartening that NFL teams have yet to pick up Kaepernick.

Yes, it is true that you could argue that kneeling is unpatriotic, but take a moment and try to stand in the shoes of an African American citizen of the United States. Would you really feel the need to express your love and immense support for a country that you feel doesn’t see value in your life?

People need to lift up their blinders so that they can see the bigger picture, instead of only seeing false, one-sided opinions that draw a distorted image, inaccurately painting people who choose to kneel as disrespectful and discourteous. Maybe one day people who disagree with kneeling will understand how it feels to have imaginary bars around you, altering your ability to be free in your own skin. Kaepernick, along with other players, are kneeling for something much bigger than themselves. It’s admirable and respectable to see them kneel at multiple games, despite the backlash.

Opinion articles written by staff members represent their personal views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent WSPN as a publication.