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Should the NFL Allow Anthem Protests?

Updated on September 3, 2018
CJWood71 profile image

As an avid follower of political and social issues, Chris has developed strong insights into the world around him.

Members of the San Francisco 49ers kneeling during the National Anthem - 2017
Members of the San Francisco 49ers kneeling during the National Anthem - 2017 | Source

The NFL Anthem Debate

I honestly never planned to cover this issue, so much had already been said and I felt this was something that would not remain in the News cycle for very long. It seems I really misjudged that one.

One of the reasons I chose to stay out of the Anthem Debate was due to the controversial aspect of the whole thing. Now that we are two years into the story, I feel that it is time for me to weigh in with my opinion. After all, opening up about feelings and having dialogue is how we solve problems.

Why Are The Players Kneeling For The Anthem?

The National Anthem Protests began during the 2016 preseason, when San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to remain seated during the pre-game Anthem. Shortly afterwards, the story began doing the rounds on social media and news outlets picked up on the story.

The stated reasons behind Kaepernicks choice was to bring attention to the oppression of African-American citizens and the killing of unarmed African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement. Kaepernick wanted to give a voice to those who couldn't speak for themselves.

"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, via NFL.com.

After the first few pre-season games, several other players began kneeling during the Anthem, in support of Kaepernick's message. The movement continued to gain steam as the regular season began, on Sunday, September 11th, 2016, the anniversary of 9/11.

As the season progressed, the number of players kneeling for the Anthem continued to grow. Despite the continued insistence by the players that the protests were not anti-American, or anti-military, frustrations among fans and the general public also began to grow.

The Public Debate Grows

In September of 2017, President Trump sent out a series of tweets criticizing the protests and suggesting that the protesting the Anthem should be fired. This, of course, further intensified public debate and the different viewpoints became very polarized. Everybody had an opinion and there was no in-between. Also, the number of players taking part in the silent protests further inceased.

On the one side, you have those who support the Anthem Protests and feel that it is an important message that must be made. They make the argument that stopping the protests would be a violation of the player's First Amendment rights, another example of oppression against minorities.

On the other hand, you have those who feel that the protests are disrespectful to members of the military and law enforcement. These individuals feel that America is a great country that provides more freedom for all people, regardless of race, gender, or religion. They feel that the National Anthem is the wrong forum for these protests.

For the sake of keeping this hub from becoming too long, I am not going to go into detail on the merits of the protests themselves, I will leave that to others. Instead, I will focus on whether or not the protests should be allowed.

Are The Protests Protected by the First Amendment?

This is a viewpoint that is brought up quite often, but it is a tricky one to answer. Although the First Amendment does grant the rights of free speech and peaceful protest, we must remember that NFL players are employees, in uniforms and on the job. Most Americans are unable to take part in protests while on company time, being a professional athlete does not grant players special rights.

Members of the Oakland Raiders kneeling during the National Anthem.
Members of the Oakland Raiders kneeling during the National Anthem. | Source

During the first two seasons, the NFL (employer) allowed the protests to continue. The league offered support for the players using their platform to bring about social change, they stood behind the players. Although a few within the league criticized the kneeling players, the primary debate was taking place outside the league, among the fans and news media.

However, this was still not a First Amendment debate. The NFL was alright with the actions taken by the players and criticism of the kneeling did not amount to a violation of free speech. Still, this did not prevent some supporters of the protests from making such claims.

NFL Ratings Fall

The 2017 NFL season saw a decline in ratings. Some have made claims that the ratings drop was a backlash from fans upset about the Anthem Protests, while others cited various reasons for the decline. Although we may never know the cause and the league downplayed the significance, it certainly caught the attention of team owners.

During the off-season meetings following the 2017 season, team owners and league officials decided to require players to stand for the National Anthem. The new rules do allow players the option to remain in the locker room during the Anthem, which seems to indicate that the league is attempting to find a compromise between the Anthem Protests and the negative publicity.

At the end of the day, the NFL is in the entertainment business and without the fans, there is no league. Therefore, it is important that the league takes the concerns of the fans into consideration and finds a happy medium. Perhaps this could be accomplished by encouraging players to get more involved in the community.

In Conclusion

During the last two seasons, players kneeling for the Anthem has become a dominant storyline in the NFL. It is a mostly negative image that is hurting the league. Some will say that the protests are drawing attention to a serious problem in the African-American community, but fair or not, that is not the message the general public is receiving.

The Players should look for a more effective method of getting their message across. If they are truly concerned about the issues, then they must be concerned that the public is talking about disrespecting the flag, instead of the issues in the African-American community. Their protests are not bringing the desired results and their approach should be altered.

© 2018 Christopher J Wood

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    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad 

      2 years ago

      Christopher Wood

      Thanks, I appreciate the company here.

    • CJWood71 profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher J Wood 

      2 years ago from Florida, USA

      BradmasterOCcal,

      A well thought out response. In short, I agree with everything you said.

      This whole issue has become so divisive, in large part because the media likes to push division. I personally feel that the media sees this as another way to attack Trump

      As for the protests themselves, I support the right for people to protest peacefully. I also support the right for others to criticize said protests.

      America is not a perfect country, we can always look for ways to improve it. However, I would challenge these protesters to find a more equal country anywhere in the world. These protesters don't know what oppression is, but I'll likely be called out for saying that.

      My father and grandfather were veterans and I have tremendous respect for the men and women who serve. I also support law enforcement and the tough job they do. I 'm proud to be an American.

      I find it sad that those sentiments are deemed controversial these days. I appreciate your taking the time to read this hub and offering your comments, we are on the same page here.

    • profile image

      Warren Jennison 

      2 years ago from Sanford, Florida

      I am wondering why this issue has not generated some real interest and comments by readers are almost null and void. I personally boycotted the NFL all last year just because our national ensign was being severely disrespected by entertainers in their public workplace unlike any such demonstrations of its kind before. I watched replays of the demonstrations via YouTube just to stay somewhat abreast of what was taking place and notating the decreasing attendance in the stands.

      I even contacted my favorite team's headquarters before the exhibition season started this year to ask if the organization was going to support the kneeling business this season. No definitive answer was forthcoming, however. As a career U.S. Navy non-com I wanted to place them on guard that the behavior was personally disgusting and an affront to me; it was unacceptable and I would not stand for it. The exhibition season is over and I have not observed such irritating behavior so I assume the the league has finally made the decision they should have made when it first started.

      I applauded the President for stating what so many thousands of people across the nation were thinking and had no way to say it in a way to be heard. Their decreased attendance and comments on social media said it well even so.

      If respect was still being taught in homes across the nation by parents and not left to to school teachers to teach, such behavior would not be a problem for the American republic.

      I served under that national emblem, saluted it at every opportunity, and wore it proudly on my clothing at times or in lapel pins. I have always regarded it as a sacred symbol of the nation that has become one of the most respected and appreciated countries in the world, but it is all in jeopardy in today's world. If the citizenry does not honor it and act with respect to others as we were being trained to do, then where is the hope in making America great again?

      We have a President who feels the way I and millions of military members do, law enforcement officers do, fire fighters do, and all others interested in seeing that proud symbol wave proudly across the world accompanied by our national anthem.

      We make mistakes, even think ourselves better than others at times, but...we love our country and whatever we have done down through its history has been intended to put its interests first for the good of this world, not just this country. We have earned others' respect and I hate to see it disrespected by hordes of citizens today who thoughtlessly tramp all over what our forefathers stood for and the documents and symbols they created.

      It offends me and all those who gave their all in the service of its citizenry only to be so carelessly tossed about in the name of exercising rights. Rights also have responsibilities attached to them, one of which is to honor our flag at sports contests.

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad 

      2 years ago

      Christopher Wood

      While you have done a good job on the specific topic of the anthem and the NFL, I believe that the real issue is patriotism and allegiance to the country. These overpaid players are avoiding the real power and path of making changes in the country.

      The anthem protest is now permeating throughout the American social system even to the schools. While these resistances to the anthem seem to be a path to changing some wrongs in the country. The proper and most effective means to accomplish the goals to make changes is the election process.

      Ruining the sports feature just provokes a division in the country. While taking the issue to the politicians at election time is the way. Because the politicians can effect change in these problems and many others. Too date the NFL players kneeling has not gotten them any closer their goal.

      Police are a local issue, and taking the issue to the federal level doesn't make sense. If you want to change how the police accomplish their job then vote local, and even state. Elect people not so much politicians that can make the changes in the way the police do their job.

      If the person they elect doesn't do that job, then elect someone else at the next elect. The sheriff, the police chief, the major, the city council and up the chain all got and keep their job at the will of the voters.

      I submit that the bigger problem is the voter, especially the loyal party voter. The voter's need to use their vote to elect the best candidate, and if the party is not putting good choices then don't elect from that party. They will eventually get the message and give better choices.

      just a thought.

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