Peacefully protesting is a protected right

Ethan Maurice, Staff Writer

The playing of the national anthem is one of the most sacred traditions in American sports. So much so that most people don’t think twice about standing up, removing their caps and sometimes even singing along before the start of a game.

But that changed last year when quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to stage a peaceful protest on Aug. 14, 2016, by sitting during the playing of the anthem during a pre-season NFL game. That protest has finally culminated in President Trump deciding to comment on multiple NFL players who were either kneeling, or making some other form of protest during the anthem.

During a speech in Alabama, Trump challenged the league’s owners to let go of any and all players who he thought were disrespecting the national anthem. To quote: “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!”

Political opinion aside, that is not how our president should be speaking about our fellow American citizens. He disrespects the office he holds and the institution that he runs when he uses attacking language and alienating speech.

The original reason for Kaepernick’s protest was to raise awareness about minority oppression. He wanted to start conversations and bring up the topics of equal rights and suffering. He sat for two preseason games, followed by taking a knee on the sideline during the rest of his team’s games.

Taking a knee was something that football players did, even before Kaepernick started the trend. It was commonly done when one of the players was hurt and needed treatment on the field, causing play to be stopped. It is an acknowledgement of suffering and pain for a fellow player, a sign of comradery for a person in the same struggle. That translates well to the current kneeling, an acknowledgement of suffering and pain for minorities, especially black people, a group that makes up 67 percent of NFL players.

Many NFL players made demonstrations during their Sept. 24 and Oct. 1 games, including raised fists, an action symbolizing solidarity and support, and kneeling during the national anthem. It was a unifying point for the league, and continues to be a talking point in sports media, such as ESPN and Fox Sports.

President Trump was and is wrong to call out Americans who are exercising their rights, especially in such tasteless terms. He is entitled to his opinion, but he needs to know that he is representing something more than just himself. Something much more: American freedom.