Kneeling During the Anthem: Just Do It by Noah Ehrman
In September, Nike began running its 30th anniversary ad campaign featuring a close-up image of Colin Kaepernick’s face with white text that reads “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
This ad provoked controversy in consumers, leading some to burn their Nike merchandise and call for boycotts. In spite of this outrage, Nike saw a 31% sales increase after running their ad campaign according to TIME.
Kaepernick has been a polarizing figure in the NFL and US politics ever since he began his police brutality protests during the national anthem in a 2016 preseason football game. This protest quickly became controversial online, with many people either commending his bravery or criticizing his disrespect to the anthem.
The spirit of free speech and the importance of the issues addressed by Kaepernick’s protest are more valuable than the American tradition of standing for the national anthem.
American politics depend on freedom of speech. The ability of Americans to peacefully protest problems in their own government and society has been a vital component to many of the largest and most beneficial social movements in the country. To argue against one’s right to protest an important issue would be to argue against the very thing that makes America great in the first place.
Ironically, one of Kaepernick’s loudest opponents is President Donald Trump. Despite being the current leader and representative of the Land of the Free, Trump said during a Fox News interview that those who participate in Kaepernick’s protest maybe “shouldn’t be in this country.”
Trump’s position, like the position of many other people against Kaepernick, focuses on how Kaepernick’s protest is disrespectful to America and its military. His problem isn’t with the message that Kaepernick is trying to get across, but rather with an invented anti-American message that Kaepernick never intended and actively avoids.
Kaepernick’s goal has never been to disrespect the flag. He is not running an anti-American protest, anti-military protest or even an anti-anthem protest. Kaepernick is only protesting police brutality.
In an interview with USA Today, Kaepernick said, “I realize that men and women of the military go out and sacrifice their lives and put themselves in harm’s way for my freedom to take a seat or take a knee, so I have the utmost respect for them.”
Kaepernick knew that his protest was not going to be popular, but he decided that he should do it anyway. The protest is a moral problem for him.
“To me, this is bigger than football,” said Kaepernick in an interview with NFL media, “and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”
Kaepernick’s protest has been controversial from day one, but it shouldn’t be. In a country founded on the principles of individual freedom and the right of the citizens to peacefully speak their mind, simple acts of protest should not be seen as inherently radical. The messages conveyed by these peaceful protests are far more important than the methods used to conduct them.
Photo credits to Twitter.