Article by Taylor Perkins
While it may seem like the national anthem protests from the National Football League (NFL) began only a few short weeks ago, players vocalized their feelings long before that. This controversy began last fall when Colin Kaepernick, then-quarterback for the 49ers, refused to stand for the national anthem.
Kaepernick became the figurehead for NFL players and through his actions, or rather his lack of actions, sparked debate across the nation. Discussion amongst sports commentators, the public and athletes continued on whether Kaepernick’s actions were appropriate or not, and are still being debated this NFL season.
Drury University may lack a football team, but it doesn’t lack in athletic talent, with many of the athletes also having an opinion on taking a knee.
‘Take a knee’ in review
Players including Marshawn Lynch and Michael Bennett did not stand for the national anthem during preseason. Lynch did not comment or talk with press after he did not stand for the national anthem, however, Bennett became very vocal. He discussed his feelings of injustice nationwide.
Bennett continued to vocalize his feelings after he said that a police officer used excessive force on him Sept. 6. He spoke out in a news conference in early September and shared his views on police.
“Do I think every police officer is bad? No, I don’t believe that. Do I believe there are some people out there that judge people by the color of their skin? I do believe that,” Bennett said to the news conference, as reported by Chicago Tribune.
The debate between Bennett’s racial profiling case and the police’s investigation continued to play out through the month of September. The dynamic of the discussion changed when President Donald Trump spoke out.
At a rally in Alabama for a republican candidate on Sept. 22, President Trump spoke out against the NFL owners for letting their players protest.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b**** off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired,” Trump said.
In response, the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement on Sept. 23 where he talked about how important unity is, especially in times that are straining and could cause division.
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities,” Goodell said in his statement.
Since President Trump’s original statement players and coaches have continued to release statements about the importance of speaking up and embracing one another in times of what they feel is injustice.
“We are at our very best when we are working together, building unity and including everyone’s voice in a constructive dialogue. Creating division or demonizing viewpoints that are different than our own accomplishes nothing positive and undermines our collective ability to achieve the ideals of our democracy,” Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Braves said, according CNN.
Owners, CEOs and chairmans from many other teams releases statements that echoed Blank’s.
Trump then released a series of tweets from his official Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump. First he acknowledged Goodell’s statement but responded saying that he should “tell them to stand” on Sept. 23.
He then released a string of four more tweets on Sept. 24 about how if NFL fans stopped going to games until the players respected the flag, that the protests would be resolved quickly. That was followed by praise for the citizens who support Trump.
“…NFL attendance and ratings are way down. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S,” President Trump tweeted.
He wrapped up the series by explaining his stance on the protests.
“Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings,” he tweeted.
Drury athletes give opinions
As this debate continues to gain the public’s attention, the effects have spread to different levels of sports. Drury students discussed their stances on players’ rights to protest.
“I’m definitely for people protesting against what they feel is unjust, but I think there is a time and a place to do it. I think by doing it during the national anthem, they are taking away from the from what they are trying to protest,” sophomore wrestler Colin Harper said.
He elaborated, stating that kneeling specifically for the national anthem directs the attention of their cause away from the spotlight it deserves.
“The focus is going toward, ‘Should they be kneeling during the national anthem?’” said Harper. “The focus needs to be on what the players are trying to raise awareness for.”
Felicia Sheil, a freshman track athlete, expressed a similar viewpoint.
“There are other ways you can express your beliefs and protest injustice and the national anthem and what it stands for,” said Sheil.
Sheil added that she believes personal beliefs should be left off the field, and by not doing so, are not being the best role models possible.
“The way the athletes handled the situation seemed more disrespectful and inappropriate. It was coming out of spite for a comment made by someone else and what they believed, rather than in respect for our country,” she said.
While Sheil was more direct about her stance, Harper said that he too would rather have had the players take action in a different way to express their feelings of injustice.
“If you feel strongly about your cause, use your status to make a positive impact in the communities that are feeling the unfairness you are talking about.”
What are your feelings about athletes taking a knee? The Mirror wants to know. Tweet us your thoughts and opinions. Drury students may not always agree with each other, but it is our university’s tolerance of differentiating beliefs that allows us to persevere.