By Philip Johnson
Division and anger. Arguments and controversy. Firing and blackballing. Politics and social media. Backstabbing and hate. All of this negativity has led to change and awareness. The established tradition in sports of standing for the anthem has been a major topic of discussion in past weeks. Recently NFL players and coaches have taken a stand against social injustice by kneeling, sitting, or not even showing up for the national anthem. In recent weeks, the problem has had backlash from military, team owners, and even the President. This movement for social awareness has taken a toll on the league its players and even the fans.
On August 26th, 2016 in a preseason game last season, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was photographed sitting down on a bench for the national anthem. His actions were almost overlooked until the photo was shown. When asked why he sat he said he won't stand for an anthem that represents a country where there is social injustice and racism regarding police shootings involving black men. The backlash he met was unprecedented. There were racial slurs thrown at him, hatred from the media and really the whole country. There were death threats, calls for him to be fired, and even for him to be banned from the NFL.
To see where all the hate comes from one must look at multiple areas. Most people who are against the protests say it’s because Kaepernick disrespected the military. Their reasoning is that people have died and sacrificed their lives for that flag and everything it stands for. For instance Daulton Der a junior at GHS agrees in the sentiments about the disrespect shown to the military and took it step further when he said “it not only disrespects the military but the pride of our country itself”.A country’s flag is the most recognizable symbol about the country, and in America, many people are passionate about it. So when Americans see a man making millions of dollars sitting down; showing the utmost disrespect to the thing they take the most pride in they are going to be angry. Kaepernick also faced backlash from his teammates, owners across the league and the commissioner. He continued to sit/kneel for the anthem the entire 2016-2017 season which eventually led to his team releasing him.
Fast-forward to this season - Kaepernick is still unemployed. However, his message has gotten out. He had one goal and that was to raise awareness, and that he did.Regardless of those who still throw shade his way he has supporters. Such as Glenelg senior Chris Barlow who says his message is great and his means of attracting attention to that message were perfect”. Much to his dismay and too many who support him he can’t get work. This season, players have taken a stand against the injustices they see in this country going unsolved. Leading into the third week of the season, President Trump tweeted out that any player who sits for the anthem should be fired, and if a fan finds the player’s actions offensive they should walk out of the stadium. He followed up his sentiments by calling anyone who sits/kneels a “son of a b****”".
Well, those statements were taken very personally by NFL players. As such there was a league wide protest held on Sunday, September 26. Every team had some form of protest happen. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans, and Seattle Seahawks went to the lengths of not coming out of the locker room for the anthem. Some of the performers singing the anthem took a knee while they sang. Kaepernick’s wish to get his message across about social injustices that happen and are swept under the rug and can no longer be accepted, had been heard. He found the one way that in his mind that would make people open their mouths and finally start discuss the social problems this country faces.
As of today, the protests are ongoing. But to everyone's surprise this season the owners are on the player's side. Or so the players thought. After week 3 every owner except for one came out and said we are behind our players. A bigger surprise was the owner who came out first. Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, is the most powerful owner in football. He is also a Donald Trump supporter and donated millions to Trump's political party when he ran for office. However, he reportedly backed his players and their protest. The sole owner who was initially against the protests is none other than Jerry Jones. The Dallas Cowboys owner initially came out and said any of his players that “does anything other than stand and place his right hand over his heart will not play for his team”. Coming out of the most conservative state in America this response was expected. What wasn’t was when he sang a different tune at a press conference on October 8th when he said he "made a mistake in his previous comments" and that he "respects his players and their opinions and actions".
However all the owners sang a different tune when reports from ESPN came out on October 10th said the owners want to implement a rule where players must stand. This change in opinion is in response to a slight decline in attendance in the last three weeks. But what the owners don’t realize and most of the country doesn't either is that what they're doing directly relates to what Kaepernick was trying to stop. They’re trying to sweep the players protests under the rug and as Kaepernick has said one of the ideals this country was built on was protests. It seems although his message got across it's not being taken seriously.
While Kaepernick remains unsigned, even though he is better than many of the quarterbacks in the league, his impact of what he did on the field is going to be long lasting. He did something many have tried and failed at. He got people to start talking, and having conversations that were uncomfortable and still are for a lot of people. But at least people are discussing it. Now where do the protests goes from here? Will Kaepernick ever get signed again? What's the next step for these athletes? Those questions can’t be answered right now, but what we do know is that through the death threats, firing, blackballing, and unemployment, Kaepernick’s message has changed the landscape of sports forever.