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What it means to be American

Initially, not many noticed the simple, silent gesture. As the National Anthem rang through the stadium, a single man sat. It was not until August 26th, according to teammate Eric Reid, that Colin Kaepernick gained notoriety for his peaceful protests. Reid, after seeing the quarterback sit preceding the 49er’s pre-season games, decided he wanted to protest in solidarity. After what Reid recalls as a lengthy conversation about how to best make an impact on the social justice movement, that understated gesture was soon transformed. What resulted was a form of protest that is as easily recognizable as it is widely debated: taking a knee as the national anthem plays. With this subject comes two extreme sides, one being those who firmly believe protesting players should face punishment for disrespecting the flag, and those who passionately defend Kaepernick’s right to protest an issue that is important to him. As an American citizen, Kaepernick is fully within his rights to protest. However, how he chooses to do it exhibits disrespect towards his country that so generously grants him such freedoms.

Although distasteful, Kaepernick’s protests are meant to spread awareness about an important issue that plagues the American population: police brutality. Kaepernick states, “‘I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,’” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “‘To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder’” (Wyche). Police brutality is abhorrent and seemingly affects predominantly minority groups. Although this sensitive topic is enough to write an article on itself, it is widely agreed upon that excessive violence towards a particular group of people is a despicable concept.

How well does Kaepernick’s kneeling convey his noble message? When BHS students were asked what they knew about the Take A Knee protests, this was how they responded: “Many players in the NFL (white and African American) are protesting peacefully by kneeling while the national anthem is playing because they do not want to support a flag of a country that oppresses people just because of their skin color. Some people support this and some people don’t which is why it is such a big deal right now.” Another student stated something similar: “Lately, NFL players have been taking a knee during the national anthem at football games as a method of peacefully protesting police brutality and oppression of minorities.” The student adds, “While some people support them, many NFL fans, even the president, view this as disrespecting the flag, therefore disrespecting the country, and choose to publicly denounce their behavior.” Seemingly, the Bulldogs know their stuff. These responses suggest that Kaepernick’s reservations about police brutality are accurately conveyed through his actions. However, the second student’s response states exactly what is wrong with Kaepernick’s protests: His choice to kneel during the national anthem conveys a sense of non-patriotism that has caused many to detest the Take A Knee movement.

It is of utmost importance to be aware of the current day issues that affect our fellow Americans. This country is an imperfect one, but those who risk their lives to make it safe deserve respect. The National Anthem is a brief celebration of liberty and unity, and so it is inappropriate to push a political agenda during the few minutes in which one can truly appreciate what it means to be American.