A sea of fans stand and place their hands over their hearts as the United States National Anthem is played. However, as you look down on to the field you may not see the players doing the same.
Lately, it is common to see players, coaches, and team owners kneel as the National Anthem is played. This action is in protest against the mistreatment of minorities and people of color in American society.
The protesting has faced much backlash from President Trump and others as it has been seen as disrespectful to the flag and the country as a whole.
Protesting Through Sports
The protests started last year when a football player for the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick, remained seated on the bench for the National Anthem. Kaepernick said that he refused to stand because of the mistreatment of people of color in the country, which has been an ongoing and important issue.
Since Kaepernick’s statement, many sports teams have been following in his footsteps to protest the treatment of minorities and, more recently, the Trump presidency. Is this the first time that athletes have used their popularity to speak up for issues they believe in?
Well, it turns out this has happened throughout history. In 1965, players from the American Football League arrived in New Orleans for the AFL All Star game. From the moment they stepped off the plane, racial slurs and horrible comments were yelled at them. The team decided to take a stand by boycotting the game. Due to this protest, the league ended up moving the game to Houston instead.
In 2014, in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri, the players of the Rams walked onto the field with their hands up. This "hands up, don't shoot" gesture was out of support for Brown and the Black Lives Matter campaign.
The action of taking a knee to "stand up for civil rights" dates back to the Civil Rights Movement, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others were seen taking a knee while speaking up for voter registration rights. This recent protest is a continuation of a long history of people standing up (or kneeling) for what they believe in.
The White House Response
President Trump has been opposed to these protests, making statements verbally and on Twitter to speak out against the players who refuse to stand. Trump has stated that he believes players who do not stand for the national anthem should be fired from their teams.
Trump, like many people, believe that refusing to stand for the playing of the National Anthem is a sign of disrespect to the flag and the members of the military who fight for their country.
Nobody knows for sure what will happen in the coming weeks with the rise of these protests. However, we do know that these protests are illuminating important issues in our society that will need to be addressed by the White House. These players are helping to better inform American society and the world about instances of discrimination in the United States.