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, and 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 and respect the nation that I call my home, and it certainly does not mean that Americans should take a knee for the things that we do not stand for.
When we have arguments like this one, which clearly divide a nation, they bring up the point of right and wrong, ethical versus unethical, or cause and effect. Newton’s third law states “for every action, there is a equal and opposite reaction.” Every action or reaction has a consequence and those consequences are deemed right or wrong by everybody around us. Whether those are family members, strangers passing by, or just acquaintances, we are always under a microscope. Under an even higher powered microscope are famous people, like Colin Kaepernick. We are all raised differently with a different set core values; however, individuals have his or her own opinion about everything/ For example, Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee for the National Anthem. Right or wrong depends on one’s opinion, what core values he or she was raised with, and which side of the debate one chooses. Various people will have different opinions on the subject. As such, when debating the issue, answers from one side of the argument are thoughts that one may never contemplate and hold the true for each counterargument. It seems counterintuitive that Kaepernick’s cause was just an effect of the problem of police brutality in America. The simple truth is, Kaepernick’s action was a single cause, that resonates major effects across America.
Outrage in mainstream America appears to be Kaepernick’s largest contribution to his argument. For generations, the playing of the national anthem has been a sacred ritual before many sporting events around the country. This anthem is not only to honor the country and the American flag, but a time to reflect and honor the service men and women that fight for freedoms at a time when Americans feel as much loss from war as World war II. Military families, both past and present, are insulted by Kaepernick’s kneeling. Even the newly elected President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, issued a statement via twitter saying, “Very important that NFL players STAND tomorrow, and always, for the playing our National Anthem. Respect our Flag and our country!”. The Commander in Chief also ordered the owners of NFL teams to dismiss any players that kneel for the Anthem.
In addition to the public outrage, CBSnews reports that NFL ticket sales and network ratings plummeted as confirmed by ticket sellers such as Tickpick and TicketCity. As professional football transformed into an entertainment business with some sport sprinkled into it, the game changed from the rough and tough players regarded as iron men like Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert, Earl Campbell, Decan Jones, and company. People now atted NFL games to drink a few beers, relax with some family and friends, and watch tremendous athletes display their talents, and entertaining fans, a lot like WWE stars have always done. Speaking with long time football enthusiast, Chuck Nucci, he explained that he does not want to watch the NFL when it is involved with politics. Nucci states, “I love football and I watch it for the love of the game. As soon as politics are involved, it’s not enjoyment anymore”. Many Americans feel the same as Nucci which explains the rapid decline in NFL ticket sales.
Like the NFL, collegiate football suffers from Kaepernick’s actions. Rowan University, along with other American colleges, now retain the players in the locker room until the National Anthem is over. I have a personal experience as a football player; I would step onto the field, ready to hear the National Anthem and pay homage to our flag, country, and service men and women only to find out the Anthem had already been played for the fans, and not for the players. Personally for me, the time before a game when I would hear the anthem was a time of great pride, and gave me chills. I would look at Old Glory waving in the wind, and think how thankful I was to play the great game of football in the greatest country in the world. “The Star- Spangled Banner” actually psyched me up as I prepared for “battle” as players and coaches call it. Many of my peers would often feel the same disappointment along with me, no matter the color of their skin, because the playing of the national anthem is a time to honor, not a time to protest.
Kaepernick’s kneeling was also an eye opener to a lot of people, including myself. I personally follow NFL news pretty closely, and I’m not sure if his inability to find a job, and to maintain his NFL quarterback status has made bigger headlines than just NFL Network. Since Kaepernick decided to defy the only thing that everybody knew, which was standing for the National Anthem, he cannot find a job anywhere. No NFL team wants to bring him on the roster because he peacefully protested, which is his constitutional right to do. His protest might have been seen as “disrespectful to the servicemen and women,” but he did not make a mockery out of the Anthem like some players are doing now. Nobody wants to put their name out for Kaepernick, but they will for players like LeSean McCoy of the Buffalo Bills do whatever he pleases. McCoy was seen stretching, and absolutely making a mockery of the National Anthem, and the Buffalo Bills owner and staff had nothing to comment on the matter. This is a double standard, because both men did not participate in the National Anthem, but one did it peacefully, and one made a mockery out of the deal. If McCoy’s actions were not held against him and he is still employed, Kaepernick’s actions, and decision, though may not be agreed upon by everyone, to take a knee and start a peaceful protest should not be held against him either.
There have been many causes and effects that came from Kaepernicks decision to take a knee in the preseason game on August 26th, 2016. From outrage, to unemployment. Any way you slice it, Kaepernick made history with his actions, and with history there is going to be some sort of disagreement. Either way you look at it, either idolizing Kaepernick for his courage, or look down on him for his blatant “disrespect,” there is no such thing as right or wrong, there is only cause and effect.
In more cases than not, taking a knee is a sign of great respect. This is not only seen in ancient societies, such as the knighting of an individual in England, but also seen closer to home, on the playing fields that Americans love so dearly. For example, when a player is injured on the field of play, many players from both sides will kneel out of respect, but never in sports do you see kneeling as a sign of disrespect. That is until Colin Kaepernick so boldly knelt for the playing of our National Anthem.
There has been a lot of controversy over Kaepernick’s debacle, and rightfully so. It seems that the United States as a country has become divisive with a majority of white Americans and military supporting families protest Kaepernick’s actions. In contrast, a majority of the black American population support his stance and the black lives matter movement backs Kaepernick one hundred percent. Realistically Kaepernick’s explanation of his actions was vague in the post-game interview. Kaepernick alluded to his position; however, he never fully expressed in that interview that his protest sheds light on police brutality against black Americans. Kaepernick only stated that his people were oppressed, they are killed in the streets, and their killers are rewarded with paid leave for murder. One can conclude that he protests police brutality, but Kaepernick never completely explained his protest, in his much sought after interview.
Kaepernick’s protest poses absolutely no effect on law enforcement officers, who killed 223 black Americans in the year following Kaepernick’s protests according to data released in a Huffingtonpost article. The same article goes on to say that “It’s likely that more black people were killed by police during that period of time” [from the time of Kaepernick’s protest to the end of the year]. This can only conclude two things; blacks felt more empowered; therefore, more willing to test police officers because of the protests and to be known as martyrs, or that police officers exerted more force to show that the protest will not affect them in any way.
The United States has a problem with police brutality considering incidences such as the Philando Castile murder, the shooting of Michael Brown that lead to the Ferguson riot, and Eric Garner, a man choked to death in the streets of New York City. These occurrences were all the work of our law enforcement officials. As much of a problem that police brutality poses, there has also been an extreme increase of black on black crimes since 2016, when the protest was started. An article by the New York Post released the FBI crime logs for the year of 2016, and stated that black on black crimes rose in number by nine hundred compared to 2015. Black Americans are simply ignoring the outrageous number of the murder of their own kind, by their own kind, and focusing on a very small percentage of killings between law enforcement officers and black Americans. Some black Americans will also ignore the fact that black males have made up forty- two percent of cop killers in the last ten years, as stated by New York Post. Police officers now fear for their lives because of the drastic increase of police murders at the hands of black men is significantly higher. A study from National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago concludes that “half of all Americans, regardless of race, say fear caused by the physical danger that police officers face is a major contributor to aggression against civilians.”While cops fear for their lives in the line of duty, there is still no reason for the killing of innocent black Americans, like Philando Castile, or any Americans for that matter, by police officers when not needed.
When traveling most parts of the country, one observes cops patrolling towns daily and writing the occasional traffic violation. In other parts of the country, like the deep south, where oppression of black Americans still appears alive and well, one will see some, not all, cops using their power in a negative way. These cops are the ones that give all cops a bad name by trying to instill fear into civilians and abusing the power that they were given to “protect and serve.” This display of police brutality demonstrates racial tensions in the southern states that remain in place in America fifty years after turmoil for equality ravaged the country. With roots from slavery in the deep south, the southern states tend to be more racially prejudice than other areas in the country, possibly due to the antiquated rationale that blacks are slaves and plantation workers, never died.
The 2016 presidential election map shows a majority of the republican voters in southern states (Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Florida) who are predominantly white individuals. These white citizens of the deep south historically have roots to plantation owners, who owned land, which represented wealth and power. These white plantation owners needed slaves to work the fields and harvest crops such as cotton. Some slave owners passed down their land along with their opinions of black Americans on to future generations. Even though slavery was abolished in 1865 with the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment, there is still racism and prejudices that remain at the center of Kaepernick’s debate.
The feud between black and white Americans may never die in the United States. Some radical whites hold on to the traditions of the old south, with the notion of blacks as chattel slaves. Some blacks will never relinquish the fact that their ancestors were brutally kidnapped from Africa and forced into American slavery. Either way, slavery is in the past and it is the duty of Americans to move past it through learning the facts of black history. But education itself cannot overcome the prejudices and ignorance to black Americans. Both black and white Americans must learn to cast aside their opinions and respect each other as humans to unite in one great nation.
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