By Charlie Norgaard
The act of kneeling during the national anthem is a movement that has been met with both fury and support.
Ever since the 2016 NFL season, 49ers Quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, kneeled during the national anthem in protest against police brutality and racial inequality in America. In an exclusive interview with NFL Media, Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride for a flag in a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
As Kaepernick continued to protest, players all throughout the NFL followed in his footsteps and also kneeled during the pre-game anthem. Kaepernick’s movement grabbed the attention of the entire nation. While the movement may have seemed harmless to some, it outraged millions of others. The kneeling protest was widely interpreted as an insulting and ‘unpatriotic’ action, and particularly disrespectful to our veterans.
As a result, NFL viewership dropped by nearly 10% within the last year, severely impacting their yearly revenue. In response, the NFL suggested that players stand during the anthem, but had no further enforcement. Meanwhile, some team owners took a hard stance on the issue, such as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who had denied his players’ the right to kneel.
Last Wednesday, however, the NFL developed a new policy that requires players to either stand during the anthem on the field or wait in the locker room. Players who kneel on the field during the anthem will now be fined, and they are even considering adding a 15-yard penalty for any team that has kneeling players.
The new policy has two clear arguable sides to it. For one, the NFL’s new policy is first and foremost a business influenced decision. They are clearly trying to protect their brand by discouraging the act of kneeling, which has recently damaged their viewership and ratings.
On the other hand, the new policy completely infringes on basic American rights. As citizens of the U.S., our constitution grants us the right to free speech and freedom of expression. In this case, players are publicly expressing their views and opinions by taking a knee during the national anthem. By threatening to fine and penalize players for voicing their opinions, the NFL is denying their employees their constitutional rights.
The NFL’s decision to fine and penalize protesting players is not only inappropriate, but also un-American. They are not only denying players from basic American rights, but they are discouraging a peaceful social movement that has the intent of bringing attention to a very serious issue. If we normalize the suppression of social movements such as this one, then we will continue to live in a nation where oppression and inequality is the standard.