On August 26, 2016, the announcer at Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco, California came over the loudspeaker, as before every game, and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, please rise and remove your hats for the singing of our national anthem.” At that moment, San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick dropped down to one knee and shocked the entire nation. From high school sporting events to the Olympic games, from ballparks around the country, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a tradition Americans adopted at the commencement of great sporting events that serves as the pride of our great nation. What began as a simple gesture of patriotism grew into one of the greatest traditions at America’s beloved sporting venues. To some Americans, the rendition of the national anthem brings a tear to the eye and a chill to the spine. But, for others, “The Star-Spangled Banner” represents the hypocrisy of a nation divided on the idea all not Americans have equal rights in “the land of the free”. (Key)
After the NFL football game on the August 26, 2016, Colin Kaepernick released a statement,
“I am not going to stand up and show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder”.
Many Americans may not agree with Kaepernick’s statements, but they still hold some truth. In some parts of the United States, police brutality is still a serious problem, especially with the minorities such as black Americans. Police officers continue to outrage a nation with multiple incidences of unnecessary extreme acts of violence towards individuals of color.
This deep-seeded feud between black Americans and law enforcement roots itself in the race riots during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. The Civil Right movement in the 1960s caused America to ponder the question, “Are all Americans treated equally?” Police brutality ravaged the lives of black Americans across the nation which cause race riots in major US cities and on college campuses. While some Americans resorted to violence, others peacefully attempted to display their distaste for the unequal rights with sit ins. Unfortunately, public demonstrations of racial inequalities resulted in violence and police brutality regardless of how they began (Anderson). As a nation, the United Stated made great strides to protect the rights of all Americans; however, many black Americans feel that police brutality is still thriving in our great nation similar to the race riots of the sixties.
Police brutality during the civil rights movement resulted in violent and public actions toward black Americans by public servants paid to uphold the law. While police officers vowed to serve and protect society, many Americans questioned who exactly the police protected and felt black Americans remained vulnerable in a nation progressing toward equality. Police continued to harass black Americans even while they participated in peaceful protests. On February 1, 1960, the Greensboro 4 staged their first “sit in” at the Woolworth’s because they were permitted to buy merchandise at the store; however, they were not allowed to simply sit and buy a cup of coffee at the lunch counter. Their first meeting ended with a prayer, but after their peaceful protest grew, it turned into violent acts of police brutality toward the black citizens. (Anderson).
Some cases of violence cause extreme outrage and rioting, like the case of Philando Castile, a black American who was pulled over for a faulty headlight. When the police officer pulled Castile over, Castile explained to the office that he had a firearm in his car and was also licensed to carry. The officer screams “Do not reach for it! Do not reach for it!” The dash camera from the police cruiser shows the officer firing shot into the driver side window of Castile’s vehicle. While the officer shot and killed Castile, he was acquitted of all charges. Castile’s girlfriend, an eye witness to the violent and senseless murder, recorded and broadcasted the incident live on Facebook for the world to see.
Kaepernick’s protest gained major attention, and was the topic of all major sports, and news networks across America. Since then, the protests grew in popularity among NFL players while spreading to the collegiate and high school levels. But, has Kaepernick’s meaning of the protest been lost along the way? NFL players, like Kaepernick state that they kneel in protest of police brutality, which is fine if that is their sole purpose. When you see so many players in the NFL just following along in others footsteps and kneeling, it begs the question of do they really know what or why they are protesting? Even future Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy stated in an interview “But just don’t do it (kneel) because other people are doing it. Don’t just do it because you think it’s going to make a statement.”
If Kaepernick was really trying to make a statement about police brutality, though possibly effective, this was the wrong time to do it. Like I previously stated, the National Anthem made its first appearance at the sixth game of the World Series in 1918 to honor all of the service men who fought overseas in the Great War, and that had made the ultimate sacrifice for the country they love so dearly. Military supporters, and military families across America understand the origin of the Anthem, and that is why a many Americans were so outraged.
Lee Greenwood’s song, “Proud to be an American,” is a great example that shows the love most have for this great country. In the third stanza of his song, Greenwood states “, and I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free, and I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.” His is statement is truly what being an American is all about. As an American, I love this great nation, because it is the land of opportunity. Not everyone may always agree with everything that is done, such as police brutality, but that does not mean that I do not love the nation that I call my home, and it does not mean that Americans should take a knee for the things that we do not stand for.
Anderson, Terry H. Movement and the Sixties. Oxford University Press. 1995
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