OPINION: Athletes taking knees are exercising their freedom of speech


Keith Allison / CC BY

The Washington Redskins kneel during the national anthem before a game against the Oakland Raiders.

Alex Daniels

Taking a knee during the national anthem became popular when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did it before a preseason game in 2016. Over the past year, more NFL players, and other professional athletes, have chosen to express their views in the same way.  

Kaepernick  explained that he would not stand up and  show pride in a country that oppresses minorities. This has lead to debates over whether it is right to kneel during the anthem, or if it is disrespectful to the American flag and those who fought for our country.

This debate continues as more NFL players are protesting during the anthem after President Donald Trump’s comments about the protests and Kaepernick. In regards to these athletes, President Trump said that the “son of a bitch” should be “fired”.

President Trump’s comments to attack these players were immature and unnecessary. These players — and all Americans for that matter — have a First Amendment right to exercise their freedom of speech.

During the inception of our country, its forefathers wrote the Bill of Rights — the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment provides Americans with the freedom of press, religion, assembly, petition and speech.

The players in the NFL are also entitled to these rights.

Protesting against the anthem is not a way to disrespect to the flag or the people who have fought for its ideals. Players — including Kaepernick — have talked about their admiration of those who fight for this country, and their protest is not targeting them or what they have done to protect our country and our rights.

People have paid too much attention to the players actually kneeling instead of the reason they are doing it: to raise awareness of the oppression that minorities face in this country.

The oppression of minorities has always been a problem in the U.S. The civil rights movement of the 1960s helped to improve the social standing of minorities, but the fight for true equality is ongoing. Innocent African-Americans still get shot by police with no logical explanation, while these officers typically face little to no consequences.

Instead of focusing on the protest itself, we as Americans must come together if we hope to make any progress. Tensions over race relations can’t be resolved unless we stand together. Bashing players for their form of protest and debating doesn’t get us anywhere.

Maybe it is those who oppose these players and their right to protest during the anthem who are the true “anti-Americans”, not the ones peacefully exercising their right to speak against injustice.