N.F.L. national anthem protests and how they matter

Why we should care about NFL players kneeling for the national anthem

Sadhana Suri, Staff Writer

Unless you were seated in the stands in San Francisco’s 49ers game on Aug. 14, 2016, you haven’t seen Colin Kaepernick’s first kneel of protest during a performance of the national anthem live. Since then, the movement to protest police brutality and racial inequality has become more widespread, inciting strong responses across the nation.

As students, we should care about the anthem protests, not only because they have caused enough controversy to become nation-wide news, but also due to what these demonstrations symbolize: the idea that anyone can raise awareness about societal injustice through meaningful protest.

First of all, is there real cause for protest? Protesters say that they are attempting to raise awareness about systemic racism, but is that a real cause? Turns out it is. According to studies conducted by the Washington Post, black Americans are 2.5 times as more likely as white Americans to be targeted by police officers.

There’s a reason television networks are breaking tradition to broadcast national anthems – not only are they acknowledging the anthem protests, they’re also choosing to focus on them and emphasize their importance.

“We don’t tell [the networks] they have to cover it,”  said N.F.L spokesman Joe Lockhart. “They do what they do.”

Some have argued that the protests are unpatriotic and disrespectful of the national flag, anthem, police, and military. The anthem protests, however, actually have nothing to do with veterans’ rights – they are instead wholly connected with race. When Kaepernick first knelt last year, he told CNN that he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

More recently, the Seattle Seahawks said “We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country,” in an official team statement. From the very start, players have kneeled to highlight the issue of racial injustice in American society. I also believe that our nation’s officers and military serve to protect our personal freedoms, including the public’s right to protest societal issues. Many veterans agree; 97-year-old World War II veteran John Middlemas knelt with N.F.L. players to show solidarity. His photo went viral with the quote: “Those kids have every right to protest.”