Regardless of whether you are a sports fan or a socially-engaged individual, it is hard to miss the protests that have been erupting all over the American professional sports landscape.
Some athletes in the MLB and NBA, but mostly the NFL, have been “taking a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem as a form of silent protest for the perceived racial inequality in the country. Taking a knee has generated much controversy.
The situation escalated after President Trump expressly espoused the idea of firing athletes who kneel during the anthem. On Sunday, players from many NFL teams kneeled during the anthem (with nearly the entire Steelers team not even showing up on the field) and locked arms in a symbol of unity.
And as a long-time NFL fan, I have to say I am disappointed.
I’d like to first mention that I firmly acknowledge the right these athletes have to protest. I am not doubting their freedom of speech rights, and I am certainly not going argue against the Constitution. That is not the issue.
While I believe that all athletes should stand for the flag, because the flag serves as the symbol of our country and the protection that the U.S. military gives us, I don’t even necessarily have an issue with the athletes protesting. That is not the issue, either.
The issue I have is with the timing of it all.
It’s been over a year since the former NFL QB Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the National Anthem. And while other players followed, they were small in number, and nothing like it was this past Sunday.
I genuinely feel that the large number of players that kneeled on Sunday were just doing it because it was “trending” and the issue was at the forefront. These players had a year to express their protest, but the majority of them never did.
So, why now?
While I don’t doubt that these NFL players are aware of the major police brutality cases and injustices, I doubt that many of these players believe in this cause strongly enough to kneel during the anthem. It feels as if these athletes didn’t want to stir up unnecessary controversy, but when it was made clear, as on Sunday, that everyone was going to kneel and that it was safe to do so, then they decided to do it. It doesn’t seem genuine or heartfelt.
As much as I dislike Colin Kaepernick, at least he was genuine and kneeled because he truly wanted to protest inequality and police brutality. By contrast, I feel that the majority of the NFL players who kneel are just doing it for PR reasons.
And again, I’d like to stress the fact that I don’t believe that all of these athletes did this just because it was the “popular thing to do.” However, some did. Players, like Martellus Bennett, who had once refused to protest during the anthem and are now choosing this time to attack the President and claim they wouldn’t mind being fired for doing something they believe in, are hypocrites. They are just doing it because everyone else is.
The main concern I have with this protest is the use of “identity politics.”
I feel that a lot of these players are being pressured into kneeling when they might not necessarily agree with it. Identity politics generalizes groups of people and pressures a person to think or act a certain way by virtue of his membership in a particular group. However, not all people in these groups have the same views or live in the same condition. In America, you should think for yourself and act freely, and you shouldn’t feel pressurized into agreeing with something you might not believe in.
Is America a perfect country? Absolutely not. While the patriotic side of me would like to say yes, the reasonable, logical and realistic side says no. And while we, as a country, understand that our country has flaws, we also have to be reminded of the great things our country provides and stands for.
So, to the NFL players, next time you think of kneeling, think LONG and HARD about the opportunities this country has given you and decide for yourself if you really want to kneel or not. Do not feel pressured into kneeling.