A stadium full of fans anticipating the San Francisco 49ers vs. the San Diego Chargers game stand with hands placed over their hearts as they listen to the national anthem. Down on the field, the 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is kneeling which sparks the flames of controversy around the country. Kaepernick’s reasons behind this action were to protest police brutality toward African Americans but some people thought that the gesture was targeted towards the flag and the military which caused a decline in support for the National Football League (NFL). Players get fined for the smallest of things, but kneeling didn’t see any punishment. NFL players should be fined for kneeling during the national anthem because it promotes disrespect to veterans and causes a division among fans.
Colin Kaepernick started out sitting on the bench for the national anthem played before each game for two weeks before he decided he needed to do something to get noticed (Intravia, Piquero, A. R., & Piquero, N. L., 2018). It wasn’t until September 1, 2016 when he began to kneel among his standing teammates on the field. He did this gesture because of the numerous police shootings toward African Americans that were happening at the time. Kaepernick was interviewed after the game and explained, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color (Steele, 2018, pg. 177).” Kaepernick is half African American so starting this protest was important to him to be the voice of change for the colored community. His teammates soon started to join and later other players from different teams followed the kneeling movement which fueled the conflict among the football viewers.
NFL players shouldn’t be allowed to kneel during the national anthem because it’s disrespectful to veterans who fought for that flag. Standing for the national anthem is a patriotic gesture to show gratitude to the military and take pride of the freedom that the flag represents. Complete strangers risked and lost their lives to give everybody in this country freedom and the players are taking it for granted by doing their protest during the anthem. Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation in Washington said, “If players meant to direct that gesture toward the police and not toward the military and the flag, then that message got blurred (Greenblatt, 2018, pg.18).” The manner of protesting during the national anthem made some Americans assume the protest was intended to shame the country while others agreed with Kaepernick’s point of view.
The conflicting opinions over the kneeling matter comes down to race and political affiliation between people (Intravia, Piquero, A. R., & Piquero, N. L., 2018). In a poll done by the full service survey and market research firm (SSRS), 59% of white people say kneeling is the wrong thing and 82% of black people said it was the right thing. President Trump even got involved with the protest on Twitter by tweeting about how serious this country takes its national anthem and how kneeling is unacceptable. He later elaborated on how players should be fired, and fans should boycott watching the sport (Stratmoen, Lawless, & Saucier, 2019). Since Trump got into the matter, politics were introduced to the controversy. The same SSRS poll showed that more republicans disagree with the protest than democrats (Intravia, Piquero, A. R., & Piquero, N. L., 2018). This protest was supposed to be over making a change about racial discrimination in our society, but the initial purpose of the protest had been lost within the conflict between race and politics.
The differing opinions behind the protest could also be due to how the reasons behind it are clear but the people protesting it are not. Hoover Institution Fellow Shelby Steele explains that there is nothing to protest by saying, “the oppression of black people is over… the irony is you are making $15 million-a-year, you are making vast amounts of money, successful in every way (Steele, 2018, pg.180).” The African American football athletes show that people of color have the opportunities to succeed in this country and nobody is holding them back. Yet, they are blaming the same country that is in full support of them being black athletes for being prejudiced. Our culture is unified by patriotism but this protest about racism brings out everybody’s individual differences (Stratmoen, Lawless, & Saucier, 2019).
Since the anthem protests started, the NFL has lost millions of viewers over conflicting opinions on if kneeling is right or not (Greenblatt, 2018). Fans have boycotted watching football on tv and stadiums aren’t near as full as they used to be at games. People are being forced to choose a political stance over what is supposed to be a leisure activity. What used to be something that brought fans together to cheer on their favorite teams has now turned into everybody picking a side against each other based on their views about the protest (Greenblatt, 2018). People are choosing not to watch football at all rather than be fighting among their friends. Kneeling is causing a division among fans that’s making the NFL lose money and support.
Football players get fined for the dumbest of things from showboating after a touchdown to uniform violations. Players aren’t allowed to spike the ball or do a touchdown dance in the end zone because it delays the game and is considered unsportsmanlike conduct (Cunningham, 2009). These touchdown celebrations are still seen often but what nobody knows is that the player gets penalized after the game with a fine ranging around $10,000. Same goes for uniform violations, players have been fined over $5,000 for wearing pink to support breast cancer out of the month of October. The dress code is so strict that the most miniscule things from wearing the wrong color of socks to wearing a t-shirt that advertises anything other than Nike is punishable by a fine (Cunningham, 2009). How is it ok that players get fined over their socks but not for disrespecting the national anthem?
Fining for kneeling has been debated among the NFL, but they can’t decide if they should put it into place or not. On one hand they don’t want to deny players of their right to a peaceful protest, but they’re losing money. The thought of a $10,000 fine is terrifying to the average American but it’s petty cash to football athletes. The players can easily pay these multiple small fines to continue kneeling because they are multimillionaires. Coaches have even offered to take the fine for the whole team and pay it to allow them to kneel; therefore, the fine itself should be hefty enough to skew players from wanting to pay it (Cunningham, 2009). This is an easier route than just firing players because then we wouldn’t have any football to watch at all along with more protests over violating the constitution. The NFL has tried to keep the controversy on the down low especially after Kaepernick was cut from the 49ers last year and hasn’t been picked up by another team since (Greenblatt, 2018). They must please the fans without drawing more attention to themselves over the kneeling matter and fining players is the answer.
People do have the right to protest, the First Amendment in the constitution exercises the right to the freedom of speech and expression. Kneeling is a peaceful protest, it’s not hurting anyone. The unfair treatment of minorities needs to be addressed and what better way than have NFL players who are looked up to be in support. Kneeling caused an uproar because football is such a big sport and the players are celebrities, everybody across the country knew within hours. Colin Kaepernick has credit for successfully starting a famous protest that got noticed because he sacrificed his career and reputation to bring light to the racial issues still seen in the United States (Intravia, Piquero, A. R., & Piquero, N. L., 2018).
Nobody is saying that the players shouldn’t be allowed to protest at all, especially since the purpose behind it is legit and they have the freedom to do so. The gesture of kneeling during the national anthem as a protest is the issue. Since the NFL is losing money from fans because of the kneeling, they can make some of their revenue back from fining the players. The athletes will still have the option to kneel if they want to, their right to protest isn’t being taken away, it will just cost them to replace the money from the loss of fans. Fining will put a stop to or at least decrease the amount of kneeling, so fans can have their common ground again and veterans aren’t being shamed for their duty on national television.