Lately before NFL games begin, we’ve been seeing a rather uncommon phenomenon take place – players not standing during the national anthem. This movement goes back to last year, with Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers protesting racial inequality by not standing during the national anthem. President Trump came out with fire on Sept. 25th, slamming Kaepernick and others on Twitter for not standing during the national anthem.
“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!” he tweeted. “Many people booed the players who kneeled yesterday (which was a small percentage of total). These are fans who demand respect for our Flag!”
A 62-63 of the NFL League Rulebook deals directly with the national anthem and has been cited as proof that players must stand during the national anthem: “The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem. During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand and refrain from talking. … Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.”
What people misunderstand is that the rulebook does not specifically require players to stand during the national anthem. Rather, players “should” stand at attention, face the flag, etc. I know that in the hearts of many this is a deadly sin against our great country, however, there is no reason at all why players should have to stand. If our country is truly free, then we should be able to disrespect the very core of our country. If one received major penalties for not standing during the flag, then what is our freedom if our peaceful protest is limited? Last year, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy made a highly relevant emark in regard to Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem.
“Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem,” said McCarthy.
Even though I personally would stand during the anthem, and I do not agree with the medium of protest these players are taking, I believe that we can’t deny anyone that right to peacefully protest, no matter how offensive it might be. Our president needs to stop driving a wedge in between his voting base and those who are protesting. By alienating them, and bringing those who agree with him closer, he deepens the divide between citizens of America. One thing we’ve needed for some time now is leadership from the president. I hope in the near future that we can all achieve this unity by positive leadership. The players should receive a fine of some sort, and if they decide to continue kneeling during the anthems, that’s up to them to peacefully protest. However, forcing anyone to do anything is just wrong and desecrates the flag worse than kneeling during the national anthem.