In 2016, Colin Kaepernick drew nationwide attention for not standing during the national anthem before games. His silent protest was against the oppression of people of color in light of events of police brutality. This form of protest has gained more attention since Sunday, when more players were shown with arms linked, kneeling on the field, sparking a debate over what the players are protesting and whether they should be able to protest at all.
On Monday September 25, the Dallas Cowboys team and its owner, Jerry Jones, linked arms and knelt on the field before the national anthem was played amidst jeers from the crowded arena. Jason Garret, Dallas Cowboys head coach, said in an interview with NFL Total Access they chose that moment to demonstrate for a reason.
“The biggest thing for us was to show support and to demonstrate, but do it in a way that didn’t involve the American flag and the national anthem, and everybody was behind that,” said Garret.
“The reason that I’m particularly proud of this team and the coaches that coached them, is because we all agreed that our players wanted to make a statement about unity and we wanted to make a statement about equality,” said Jerry Jones.
Jones is not the only owner to kneel with his team. Arthur Blank of the Atlanta Falcons and Dan Snyder of the Washington Redskins also kneeled with their teams. Donald Trump has spoken out against the NFL, urging for a rule that forces the players to stand for the anthem and sees kneeling as a sign of disrespect on the United States rather than a silent protest for social equality. He shared his opinion through a series of tweets.
Many Americans agreed with his statements. Taya Kyle, widow of ‘American Sniper’, Chris Kyle, shared her thoughts about the issue in a letter to the NFL on Facebook. In the letter, she claims the NFL’s job was to “bring people together and heal the world” and feels that their recent protests go against that.
“You are asking us to abandon what we loved about togetherness and make choices of division,” Kyle said.
While many Americans believe the protests are disrespectful to the country, others do not. There are many Americans that understand there is a meaning behind the protests, but feel the field is not the right platform.
Zane Watson, freshman, was on the fence about the issue.
“It’s their right as human beings to represent their opinions, but those opinions can reflect badly on the organization,” he said.
Cameron Frieden, University of Iowa student, does not believe the protests are disrespectful to veterans or the flag.
“These players make millions of dollars a year to play one game on Sunday, Monday, or Thursday. It’s a distraction to the sport of football. I think they should do it on their own time and not involve the game.”
“I personally don’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed to kneel. I also feel like if there are etiquette rules about the national anthem, they should consider that, too,” said Kayla Biegler.
Other Americans support the protests and feel the players are within their constitutional right to protest an injustice on the field.
Olivia Okoye, freshman, supports the players kneeling. “It’s their right to kneel. If they feel that they should do it, it’s their right.”
“I think they are standing as a team no matter what race they are because it affects all races. There are all races in the NFL,” said Arlena Lightsey, freshman.
Cassie Underwood, United States Army service member, believes the players have the right to kneel because they are using their right to a nonviolent protest.
“There are many people who don’t take off a hat or stand during the national anthem, but since the football players are televised, they are scrutinized for every movement they make.”
United States Navy service member, Kevin Marshall, agrees that the players should be allowed to kneel. However, he thinks the reason for it has changed.
“The protest is no longer about social injustice. Now it’s a protest against the President,” he said. “It started with protesting the social injustices that we as people of color face every day. Now, it’s more superficial with some protesting the cause mixed in with some showing unity after disrespect.”
United States Navy veteran, Willie Black, said, “Colin Kaepernick wanted to bring attention to racial inequality and police brutality toward African Americans. After Trump’s tweets this past weekend targeting the NFL, players, coaches, and managers and owners responded peacefully.”