Kaepernick’s Protest and Right to Protest

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On Sunday, September 24th, 2017, an estimated 130 NFL players were either kneeling, sitting or raising a fist during the pre-game singing of the National Anthem. They were following Colin Kaepernick who, in the 2016 NFL preseason, began to sit during the anthem. He later evolved his protest into kneeling during the anthem. Kaepernick said he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” (Garber). His divisive stance was in reference to the more than one hundred unarmed black people killed by police in the year previous to his protest (“Police Killed More than 100 Unarmed Black People in 2015.”).

While Kaepernick faced and continues to face heavy backlash from United States citizens and the president, he has held firmly to his position. Contrary to the president’s tweets, Kaepernick is within his right to protest as it is guaranteed in his First Amendment rights and he is helping to bring attention to ongoing injustices in the United States.

The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees the freedom of speech, along with other freedoms, to citizens of the United States. During the 2018 NFL offseason, the NFL instituted a new policy which requires players to stand for the anthem if they are on the field, or, they can remain in the locker room until the singing of the anthem has been completed. However, according to Dahleen Glanton of the Chicago Tribune, this new policy denies “players their constitutional right to protest cruel actions by the police,” (Glanton).

The constitution right to which Glanton refers is the freedom of speech. This policy was not in effect while Kaepernick led this protest in 2016. However, it does show that the NFL is taking steps to fight back against the kneeling “epidemic.” But the steps the NFL is taking are those which infringe upon the rights guaranteed not only to NFL players, but to all American citizens. Even NFL team owners, those who stand to lose the most if NFL ratings continue to decline, were opposed to implementing a rule requiring players to stand during the singing of the anthem. Only nine of the thirty-one NFL owners were in favor of a mandate requiring players to stand at attention during the anthem (Gartland). However, the policy was enforced this season due to declining ratings caused by mischaracterization of the protest, headed by Donald Trump.

Kaepernick and his movement has faced constant attacks and misrepresentations. Tommy De Sano from Fox News referred to the kneeling by NFL players as “disrespecting our flag and the brave patriots in our armed forces” (De Sano). However, according to Megan Garber from The Atlantic, “they are not protesting the flag. They are protesting police brutality against African Americans. They are protesting the lack of legal accountability for the officers who enact that violence” (Garber). Kaepernick’s message, while clear and directed, has been mislabeled by President Trump.

Trump, in response to continued kneeling, tweeted: “The NFL players are at it again — taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem. Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their ‘outrage’ at something that most of them are unable to define” (Schallhorn). Trump’s comments on the protest have faced serious backlash from NFL personalities, including Trump’s close friend Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots. Kraft said “I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President,” he continued by rebutting Trump’s attack on the players intelligence, “Our players are intelligent, thoughtful, and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful” (Garber).

While the stance of Kaepernick and the players is neither against the nation nor the soldiers, Trump cannot see that standing for the anthem and respecting the country and those who fight for it are not always intertwined. While it’s Trump that misses the point of the protest, he still attacks the intelligence of the players by doubting their ability to define what the issue they’re protesting and their outrage.

Eric Reid, one of the players who is apparently “unable to define” his outrage, had some strong words to say about Trump after he referred to protesting NFL players as sons of bitches (Graham). Reid responded to Trump’s tweets by saying “it’s disheartening and infuriating that President Trump has referred to us with slurs but the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., as ‘very fine people’” (Coaston). Reid also said that too often he’s seen people rush to the defense of officers by saying “He should have listened to the officer,” or discrediting the stance as a whole by saying “’There is no such thing as white privilege’” and ‘Racism ended years ago’” (Coaston). Reid also acknowledged Trump’s unequal responses towards the NFL players and the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville in his comments. Still, Reid understands that, despite Trump misleading the public through Twitter, Kaepernick is right in his protest. Reid knows that Kaepernick’s protest is based in reason and, although controversial, his methods are helping to bring attention to growing racial injustice.

Kaepernick’s protest attempted to highlight the profiling and mistreatment of African American people by police officers. More than 250 African American people were killed by police in 2016 alone and 39 of those people happened to be unarmed. Keith Lamont Scott, the 173rd African American to be killed by gunshot in 2016, was killed in Charlotte, North Carolina that September. According to Scott’s daughter and other witnesses, he was disabled and did not have a gun. Stories like this have been heavily reported on since Ferguson police officers killed eighteen-year-old Michael Brown in 2014. According to a 2015 study cited by Julia Craven from Huffington Post, “Six out of 10 black men say they have been treated unfairly by police because of their race,” (Craven). Kaepernick’s reasons for starting the kneeling movement are entirely supported by tragedies that have occurred. His goal was never to disrespect the soldiers or stomp on the flag and what it represents, he was instead trying to shed light on a very pertinent national issue.

Kaepernick’s protest was well intentioned and helped steer national attention towards a dangerous issue in the United States today. He chose to protest in such a way that would cause outrage. This way, the movement would gain momentum much faster in the national news coverage. Because there was so much backlash from the United States and the president, the whole country noticed Kaepernick’s actions and most understood the reasons behind his protest.

His intentions were always in the right place as this issue is still growing despite the constant national attention Kaepernick brought to it. In 2015, police were responsible for the deaths of at least 104 unarmed African American people (“Police Killed More than 100 Unarmed Black People in 2015.”). That is about two people killed each week. Sadly, this number did not decrease in 2016, rather, it increased. In 2016 more than 250 African American people were killed by police officers (Craven). That is a more than 200% increase in just one year. Despite Kaepernick’s protest, the issue still continues to grow.

Kaepernick’s protest was and still is extremely justified. This problem has not decreased which shows that even more attention needs to be drawn to it. Whether that be more protesting or more news coverage, or a combination of both, there is still an immense problem in this country. For that reason, Kaepernick’s protest was defendable. His right to protest is guaranteed in his First Amendment rights and he is helping to combat a still growing issue in the country.

Cite this paper

Kaepernick’s Protest and Right to Protest. (2021, Aug 30). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/kaepernicks-protest-and-right-to-protest/

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