The flag is a symbol: Respect it

Noah Cloonan

On Aug. 18, 2016 Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco 49’ers quarterback, first kneeled for the national anthem.

In just over a year’s time, the meaning of kneeling during the anthem has changed from a declaration against the oppression of people of color and ongoing issues with police brutality to a public demonstration against the words of President Trump.

Over the weekend of Sept. 23-24, over 100 NFL players decided to take a knee, lock arms or remain in the locker room during the national anthem after Trump tweeted out his displeasure with athletes that choose to kneel.

The outrage towards Trump started after he stated the following at a rally on Sept. 23.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

The statement was direct, firm and as we can see now has had unending ramifications, but Trump may not be in the wrong when saying this and I believe that NFL owners should heed those words.

According to TIME, the NFL’s game operations manual states, “The national anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the national anthem. During the national anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the national anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.”

Taking a knee during the anthem is punishable by the NFL, but even though they have choosen not to punish those who have taken a knee I still argue that it is completely unacceptable.

As a journalist, I fully understand and firmly want to protect the rights that are displayed in the First Amendment and I would encourage everyone else to do the same. That is why I do not have a problem with players acting against opposing viewpoints, but rather a problem with the avenue that players, coaches and owners are choosing to use to convey their feelings.

The American flag should not be taken lightly.

It is not just a piece of cloth flown above schools, stadiums and outside of houses but rather it is a symbol.

It is a symbol of the millions of men and women who have fought and died so that we may exercise our First Amendment right of free speech and the many other freedoms that this great country provides us with.

After Kaepernick’s initial protest in the fall of 2016, there was much backlash, not only on Kaepernick but also on his team and the NFL as a whole.

In fact, there was so much backlash that one AFC general manager said that other teams, “genuinely hate him and can’t stand what he did [kneeling for the national anthem]. They want nothing to do with him.”

Kaepernick lost potential jobs because of the stand that he took on very hot issues in our country, and now the same thing that has cost him his job is being applauded by millions of Americans.

My argument is not that players and coaches should not be allowed to speak their mind and stand up for what they believe in, but it is rather the manner in which they do so.

In today’s world, information is so readily available and there are so many ways to express your thoughts and beliefs.

Why not use one of the many outlets that are available to you and take your stand there, rather than taking a knee during the one event that has the power to unite an entire nation.

Lebron James, who has been very outspoken about his displeasure with the President said that he would not kneel during the anthem but he would rather speak up for what he believes needs to be heard.

This is the approach that I believe the kneeling players in the NFL should take.

Use the platform that you have been given to insight change in the world.

Athletes have press conferences before and after games and many other times throughout the week: use those to speak up about what your beliefs are, instead of disrespecting the flag.

Even if the intent is to bring awareness and not to disrespect those who have served or are serving, the way it is viewed is the same.

So the bottom line is, speak up for what you believe in, but please do not disrespect the flag that serves as a symbol for those who have fought to give us the freedom to protest and to speak up for what we believe in.