The Gauger

Kneeling Epidemic

NFL players protest during national anthem

Steelers lineman Alejandro Villanueva stands during the national anthem. He later apologized for this.

Steelers lineman Alejandro Villanueva stands during the national anthem. He later apologized for this.

Steelers lineman Alejandro Villanueva stands during the national anthem. He later apologized for this.

Kason Kienzle, Sports Editor

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NFL football is simply not what it used to be. Watching football on Sundays and Mondays used to be the ultimate get-away for many Americans every week. Now, ratings are starting to drop tremendously. Why? Well, the gridiron has turned into a political dance floor. Yes, the hard-nosed, physical, and entertaining game we all love is now the center-piece to political media and has caused separation.

It all started at the beginning of the 2016 season when San Francisco 49’ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest against police brutality. Now, players and even whole teams are starting to take a knee during the national anthem to protest against things ranging from the president to inequality.

Since the kneeling of Kaepernick, there had been an occasional kneel during the national anthem here and there by a few athletes. On Saturday, with the use of foul language, President Trump made some comments exclaiming how NFL owners should fire their players who decide to kneel. This incident jumpstarted everything. Athletes and people from all walks of life took to twitter to explain their negative feelings over the issue. All around the league, players kneeled last Sunday during the anthem, and even one whole team, the Pittsburgh Steelers stayed in the locker room during the anthem. Steelers lineman Alejandro Villanueva, an Army veteran, was the only player on the team to participate in the national anthem. He would later apologize for his actions and say his actions were selfish.

Each one of these players does have the constitutional right to kneel for the flag if they choose to. There’s no doubt that there has been recent times when some forms of police brutality occurred. This country has also experienced more separation and division now than it has in decades. Trump has also used poor word choice when relaying the messages he wants crossed, and he has brought on some of the hate himself. However, kneeling for the national anthem in front of the one and only American flag is an action that should not be taking place.

These kneelings have spiraled out of control. Purposely kneeling during the anthem is a huge slap in the face to the millions who have given their life for the freedom of this country. I never thought I would see the day when an Army veteran would have to apologize for his actions of respecting the flag he once laid his life down for. Shame on you Pittsburgh Steelers for disrespecting your own teammate who was willing to die for your freedom so you could even have the chance to play the game of football.

People are forgetting what these kneelings were even about in this first place, which was police brutality. Now it seems like every time one of these privileged, millionaire football players feel oppressed they have to disrespect the country they’re living in and those who bought our ultimate freedom. President Trump did use poor word choice in his recent speech, but protesting the American flag should not be the answer. Trump did not make the flag, Trump did not write the national anthem himself, and Trump did not design the whole ordeal of standing for the flag in respect for himself. If a player wants to protest Trump, then let them. But doing it during the national anthem is completely wrong and portrays all the negativity that is present in our country today. It’s a huge slap in the face to all those who have died for us to have the opportunity to see another day.

The American flag symbolizes our freedom and our unity. Disrespecting it tears us as a whole even more apart. It does not bring us together like these football stars think. These NFL players should be using their platform to depict unity and show how to protest something the proper way, not using it to show complete utter disrespect to the flag that represents the greatest country on the Earth. As a society, we need to be searching for a way to depict the areas of our country we need to work on, while also showing the respect that is always deserved to this country.


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Kneeling Epidemic