Author: Gus Darden (@GDeezus)
There are a lot of people saying that the protests going on in the NFL are anti-American; that kneeling during the National Anthem alienates those risking their lives for the safety of our country. To some, that's exactly what the National Anthem signifies—the freedoms we enjoy as Americans and the people that we rely on to protect those freedoms. If this is how you view the Anthem, then I understand why these protests might upset you.
I for one was pretty annoyed when Colin Kaepernick initially began the movement back in 2016. “How could someone disrespect our servicemen and women that way?” I thought. However, the more I thought about it, the more I was able to consider that, though I would never sit during the National Anthem, it’s possible that everyone may not have the same view of the country as I do. Some may feel as if the social institutions present in the United States work at their expense—some may feel as if the United States has never done anything for them that they couldn’t do for themselves. Regardless of the motivations behind them, the protests had become a regular part of the NFL, but there had not been any kind of league-wide protest until last Sunday.
This particular demonstration was less about race and more about the rights we all have as citizens of the United States. After Donald Trump stated that NFL owners would be smart to “Get that son of a bitch off the field” if a player refuses to stand for the Nation’s Anthem, the protest morphed from one of anti-racism to one of anti-authoritarianism and unity. With respect to the president, it is necessary to remember that our country will only be at its strongest when citizens want to stand for the National Anthem. If they don’t, that should be concerning for us, not infuriating. Furthermore, once the government begins telling us what we have to say, like suggesting we adopt new gender-neutral pronouns, they have simply gone too far.
Therefore, I am perfectly fine with the Titans making the decision to stay in the locker room during the National Anthem. As a matter of fact, I respect that they, along with many other teams, decided to keep the focus on football, while simultaneously demonstrating their right to not participate if they aren’t inclined to do so. Whether they are protesting injustice or striking a blow against authoritarianism, they are within their rights.
I am equally supportive of Alejandro Villanueva, the lone Pittsburgh Steeler who decided to observe the National Anthem with hand over heart. Once again, he is well within his rights to do so. If the ongoing demonstrations make you angry, just try to replace that anger with pride in your country. Be proud that we live somewhere where the government can’t tell you what you have to do or what you have to say—it’s one of the things about America that makes it so great. Go Titans.
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