By EMILY KUBE
The NFL has been the subject of much controversy around the country over the last couple of weeks. Some players are kneeling during the National Anthem, while some are not even coming onto the field. It is saddening to watch your favorite team or player use the field as a place to protest, especially during a time that means so much to us. The National Anthem is a symbol of much more than reverence for our country. It is a way to show our support for the U.S. Armed Forces and veterans. We all must unite and stand as proud Americans any time the National Anthem is performed.
The kneeling protests began in the preseason of 2016, when quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem because of police brutality and racial inequality in the United States. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said in an interview in 2016. The former San Francisco 49er player seems to have strongly influenced other players to take a similar stand.
Except for one player, the entire team of the Pittsburgh Steelers, including the coach, failed to show up for the National Anthem during their game on Sept. 24. Steelers lineman Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who served 3 tours in Afghanistan, was the only player to stand on the field and pay his respects. The fact that only one player took the field shows how passionate the majority of the team was about the protest.
Villanueva’s jersey became an NFL best-seller during the next 24 hours. It is rare for a lineman’s jersey, on any NFL team, to be one of the top selling jerseys in the NFL. This is evidence that NFL fans support Villanueva’s decision to break away from his teammates and be present for the anthem.
Some say the players’ decisions to kneel for the anthem or not show up for it at all are disrespectful, while others praise them for standing up for what they believe in. After all, this is a free country and we have freedom of speech and the freedom to protest. There is no issue with players protesting, until they start doing it during our National Anthem. It would be ideal to see players approaching the situation differently. We all have opinions that can be voiced respectfully outside of a time of such honor such as the performing of the National Anthem.
President Trump lashed out at the NFL on Sept. 23 after witnessing the onset of protests the previous week. Trump tweeted, “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
Trump makes a valid point. Players of the NFL are very blessed and should feel more than privileged to be making a fortune playing the sport they love. According to Forbes, the average football player makes $1.9 million per year.
It is shocking to see players in the NFL disrespect our country. While the military has fought so hard to keep this country and its right speech free, it is disappointing to witness such disrespect for what unites the people of our country. It is a shame that the players have chosen the anthem as a time of protest while there are different platforms to voice opinions. A time of honoring our country and recognizing those that have given their lives is not the time to try to make a change.
Since Oct. 1, it seems that these protests are becoming less prevalent. Some NFL players kneeled before the National Anthem, but the majority were standing with locked arms by the time the anthem started. It is encouraging to see a change in the right direction and to see players returning their focus to football.