Our nation is often on shaky terrain. We as a people are at each other’s throats constantly. Sports should be a uniting factor for us, but we are now coming to terms with the realization that even the games we love are becoming divisive as well.
It was not long ago that quarterback Colin Kaepernick began to sit or kneel during the playing of the national anthem.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said in an interview with NFL reporter Steve Wyche. Kaepernick is not alone in his protest. For weeks, many NFL players have began kneeling, locking arms or raising fists during the playing of the anthem. What was once a lone protest against oppression has become a movement.
But here is wherein the issue lies. Kaepernick made his intentions clear, and whether or not you agreed with him, he made his point. That point has been lost in noise.
What is the point of kneeling during the anthem? Is it a protest against oppression? Police brutality? Maybe racism? Does it have something to do with Black Lives Matter? I don’t even know anymore, and many people don’t know either.
I do not agree with Kaepernick’s actions, but he made his intentions clear, and he used his platform as a known athlete to speak out against something he saw as injustice. But this has not continued. As more and more players kneel and sit, there may be more publicity, but the message has been lost, and viewers are simply becoming more divided than ever.
After Alejandro Villanueva of the Pittsburgh Steelers was the only player on his team to be present for the playing of the anthem, people were in an uproar. Villanueva later apologized, saying that he felt as though he had embarrassed his team. Villanueva is an army veteran who served on multiple tours; I don’t believe he has anything to apologize for, and yet this is what has happened.
I’ve heard arguments about how this is about police brutality, protest against the military, racism and more, but no one can tell me for sure why. It has once again been reduced to an argument about the flag and what it means.
Many, including myself, see kneeling during the anthem as disrespectful. However, does this mean that these athletes hate their country? I highly doubt it. These athletes are using their platform to try to bring injustice to light. I believe there are better ways they could be doing it, but at least they’re doing something.
Perhaps the problem lies in our misunderstanding of the flag and our anthem. Often, the start of these arguments stems from confusion over what they mean.
Our flag does not represent race. It does not represent hate. It represents a people, a nation born of the struggle for freedom.
The anthem is the story of a people, defending their home from those who would try to take it from them.
The flag and the anthem are not the government. They are not oppressors. They are not the police. They are not bigotry, exclusion or injustice. The flag and the anthem are us. That is what we have lost sight of in this protest. The protest is not about players and soldiers. It’s about a people, our people, trying to stop injustice. This is what we need to realize.
There must be a better way to protest injustice. We will always be divided, but when someone protests the flag, they are not protesting corruption or oppression. They are protesting their own people and their own home.