To Stand or Not to Stand

By: Jack Ridenour

Colin Kaepernick has become a household name in the sports and political worlds alike. Kaepernick gained a large amount of attention when in 2016, he was seen kneeling during the national anthem before a football game. This instantly was seen by not only football fans, but people all across the country. He later explained that he was not going to stand for a flag that symbolized the oppression of African American people.
Athletes across other sports immediately followed in protesting the national anthem. Megan Rapinoe of the Women’s national soccer team kneeled before a soccer match just days after Kaepernick was seen kneeling during the national anthem. Within a few weeks of Kaepernick first kneeling, other football players began to protest as well. Their form of protest varied, as some decided to sit during the national anthem, and others raised their fists in protest. This form of protest even reached high school athletes around the country, as 12 high school football players in Sacramento, CA were seen kneeling before their football game. As a consequence, Kaepernick was released by the San Francisco 49ers after the 2016 season, and has yet to be signed to a new team. Many believe he is being “blacklisted” by NFL teams who don’t want the possible scrutiny that could come with signing him.   
In recent news, Kaepernick’s style of protest has continued to grow in popularity. The number of NFL players protesting the flag has grown every week since the start of the 2017 season. During week three of the 2017 NFL season, President Donald Trump came out with a response to the protesting that had been going on. He was quoted saying that the NFL owners should fire the “sons of bitches” who kneel during the national anthem. He also encouraged fans to walk out of the stadiums during the games in a form of their own protest. After President Trump’s remarks, the number of players protesting increased significantly the following week. Entire teams were seen kneeling during the national anthem, including the coaches and owners. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was seen kneeling and locking arms with members of the Cowboys before a Monday night matchup against the Arizona Cardinals.
Jones has been under scrutiny for his actions as well. After he was seen kneeling and locking arms before the national anthem, he came out saying players should not disrespect the flag. He went on to say that players who do disrespect the flag, are not going to play. This was seen to many as hypocritical on Jones’ part. After Jones’ comments, Vice President Mike Pence was seen leaving the Indianapolis Colts game after witnessing players kneel during the anthem.
Student athletes at Chatham have voiced their opinions on the style of protesting that’s been occurring. “I believe the national anthem and the flag are a symbol of our freedom and that freedom is brought to us by our troops serving our country.” said junior Alex Schoppen, a member of the men’s basketball team. “Therefore, I believe it is important to stand and honor those who preserve our freedom,” Schoppen went on to say.
Other student athletes feel that there is a racial divide in our country that goes beyond the sports that the athletes play. “I think that people think [the athletes’ protests are about] a racial divide, when in reality [athletes are] using their platform[s] in the media to spread awareness about the injustices that people encounter,” said junior Natalie Knab, a member of the women’s basketball team. “These players are trying to speak for those who don’t have a voice, and who are being silenced by those with power,” said Knab.
Some believe that there is a miscommunication between the two sides about what the reason really is behind the kneeling during the national anthem. “I just think one side isn’t informed. Without knowing what’s behind the silent protest, it’s understandable how kneeling would look disrespectful,” said senior Nick Ramsey, who plays on the men’s baseball team. “On the other hand, I personally know the reasoning behind the kneeling’s so I do understand the other side of the argument as well. Either way I would rather see protests like this than the types of protests that the news has been filled with lately,” Ramsey went on to say.
Kaepernick has shed light onto an issue that has been growing in our society over the last few years. With the continued protest during the games, there could be drastic changes in our society over the issues of race. Eventually this issue could grow to be so big, that there will be no choice, except to change something in our society to better the race relations.