In August 2016, Colin Kaepernick sat (instead of standing) for the American national anthem and sparked a series of protests against racial inequality and the current state of the country that are continuing today in more force than ever before as more and more teams and players choose to kneel. In not standing, Kaepernick - and now other NFL players - are labelled "disrespectful" and "unpatriotic" since the military is fighting - and has fought - for that flag, and everyone is offended that these people are choosing to disagree.
But. First of all, how does the military fight for a flag? Or for a song? Is it because both of these are symbols of America and represent America itself? Okay, I follow that - but is it not a thoroughly American belief, so much so that it is written in the Constitution, for citizens to have the right to peacefully protest? To make a point in any way they choose to do so, as long as it does not hurt anyone else? And would one not argue that they are fighting more for these freedoms provided for Americans than for a flag or a song?
After riots in Berkeley, Ferguson, Charlottesville, and several other places across America, you'd think people would rejoice at a peaceful protest at current race relations. You'd think people would be pleased and clap that these athletes are using the stage that we have given them - yes, believe it or not, we have given them this stage through our deification of athletics and this is now their platform to express themselves, just as musicians have music and talk show hosts have television. But they're not. Why? Because America does not want anyone to protest at all.
This IS a race-related protest, and kneeling for the national anthem - which we have established is seen as a symbol of America - was chosen as the scene of protest because of its audience, its peacefulness and its effectiveness. By avoiding a show of respect towards the national anthem/America (not DISRESPECTING the national anthem - nobody is mocking it; nobody is spitting on a flag), the message is clearly one of displeasure with America's current state.
As people have a right to feel - this is also an inherently American value, the right to disagree peacefully and express this disagreement. Racism is very much alive and real in America, and the current governmental organization has only aggravated the situation by defending Nazis and stereotyping minorities. Kneeling during the anthem is a way of showing it, since talking about it very clearly doesn't do anything.
Yet even now there is a problem. People are offended for other people -- in watching several news outlets (of varying places on the political spectrum, including some right-wing sources) and browsing social media, I am seeing a lot of people being offended FOR veterans, whether it is their children, their spouse, their parents or just the group in general. But honestly, I have seen very few veterans being offended. And I have seen very little criticism of those who have chosen TO stand for the anthem; the hate appears to go one way.
But again, why is it surprising that the elitists, the white people who cannot even acknowledge their own privilege, are the ones crying about disrespect? The ones crying about antipatriotism because someone is exercising their American democratic right to express dissension with the malfunctioning current regime? It is seemingly threatening for another group to ask for equality -- because, when you are so used to privilege, equality seems like oppression. When one child always receives the better choice of candy, and receives more of it, equalizing treatment and distribution of resources will make the first child feel cheated and hated. Yet how else do you achieve equality and, thus, hopefully an end to racism?
And, for the record, the NFL is a perfectly good place to protest peacefully. "Their job is to play football, not make a statement", people say. If that was true, then, why are players expected to make a statement of respect by standing for the national anthem? Why are players expected to do community service projects, like NFL Cares, and why do people expect professional athletes to be "good role models"? Oh, wait. Because they have power, have influence over the youth (aka, the future) and because they have an audience, right? And they need to use those things to better their community?
That is what they are doing. They are calling awareness to the inequality in our country that everyone seems so determined to ignore via heads in the sand, or, at the very least, they are showing that the current government does not deserve their respect -- a sentiment that is also thrown at every single presidential government ever, especially the Obama one (yet also seems much more justifiable when thrown at Trump, considered even specifically within the context of protests. Charlottesville took him days to condemn, and even then, he defended the violent Nazis -- these NFL protests were condemned immediately, despite their nonviolence). They are using their stage, their influence and their audience to peacefully make a statement of a lack of respect - not disrespect - which, arguably, could be the most patriotic of all; these players are exercising their American rights, whereas the critics are calling for them (freedom of expression - 1st amendment) to be silenced. Who's the True American Patriot now?