United We Kneel?

Controversy arises as NFL players forgo societal convention during National Anthem


Monica Sager, Contributing Writer

At 9 p.m. on Friday night, President Donald Trump tweeted an almost two-and-a-half-minute video of the national anthem. Players and fans of the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks stood for the song. Trump captioned the video with “19,000 RESPECTING our National Anthem! #StandForOurAnthem

Trump tweeted this in wake of football players taking a knee during the national anthem. During the football weekend beginning Sept. 23, each National Football League (NFL) team had at least one player stand—or kneel.

Football teams showed support differently. Some locked arms, others took a knee, and a few raised a fist to the sky. The Pittsburgh Steelers (with the exception of former Army Captain Alejandro Villanueva), fully boycotted the anthem and did not leave the locker room.

These players are not the first to make a statement in this fashion. Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49’ers, took a knee in the 2016 football season. He faced a lot of wrath and fury for such a move. Now all of these other players are following suit, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Critics, like Trump, say the players moves are disrespecting the flag, fallen service members, or whatever else, but isn’t such a stance humbling?

Little league players of all sports are taught to take a knee when another player is hurt. It’s a sign of respect. They are acknowledging the injured, stopping play, and hoping they’re okay. This action is a humbling sign, as kneeling is a symbol of honor, even outside of the sports world, such as in religious contexts. It is not disrespectful like Trump is making it out to be. Standing with arms linked can symbolize unification. Is that not what America is about? We are “the land of the free, home of the brave.” Together. Not separate.

Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, spent a lot of time listening to the players. He told Sports Illustrated that the players really care for the sport.

“They reflected the frustration, the disappointment, of the players over the divisive rhetoric we heard [from Trump],” Goodell said.

But Trump called the player’s actions a “total disrespect of our heritage, a total disrespect of everything that we stand for.”

He later tweeted Saturday, Sept. 23, after some NFL teams already took their knees, “Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country. Tell them to stand!”

If Trump believes you need to stand to respect the flag, he can. It’s okay. If a football player—or any ordinary person for that matter—feels differently, that’s totally okay too. Neither person’s actions affect the other.

It’s not just the NFL taking a stance. An eight-years-and-under football team in Cahokia, Illinois took a knee on Sept. 23. Bruce Maxwell, an Oakland Athletics catcher, was the first Major League Baseball (MLB) player to take a silent stance. Singers in both Detroit and Nashville both knelt in protest. Rico Lavelle finished “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Detroit Lions game, dropped to his right knee, and raised both hands in fists.

NFL players took a stance this past week as well, and it seems like the movement may continue throughout the season.