OPINION: Let’s Keep Talking About the National Anthem Protests

Last month Nike teamed up with Colin Kaepernick to make a 30th anniversary commercial that would air on the NFL’s  opening night, September 6. Kaepernick made national headlines in 2016 when he started protesting police brutality against the black community by kneeling during the National Anthem. His actions sparked a national debate about the proper way to respect the flag, a discussion that  has been reignited by Nike’s latest commercial, which was presented to be inspirational to young people by motivating them be the best person they can be.

I believe that Colin Kaepernick is doing the right thing, which is speaking up for what believes in. If he didn’t take advantage of his platform as an athlete to voice issues that are not being paid enough attention to, then he’d be failing. No, not everyone agrees with his choice to kneel during the anthem because they see it as disrespecting the flag and/or soldiers who have fought and died for our country. However, he clearly stated at the beginning of his protest that he was not trying to disrespect the flag in any way. He just wanted to get people’s attention. If kneeling is what will make people pay attention, then I support him kneeling during the anthem. I also applaud the players who took up after Kaepernick’s lead and decided to kneel as well. The more people do it, the more awareness is being brought to the issue.

Kaepernick, however, is not the first athlete to make a political statement during the national anthem. Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raised their fists with a black glove to show Black Power at the medal ceremony in the 1968 Summer Olympics. They also took off their shoes to make a statement about  poverty and wore beads and a scarf to protest lynchings. “We’re acknowledging the flag, not showing hatred for it,” they said in a 2007 Washington Post interview.  Similar to Kaepernick’s protest, it brought a lot of attention because people felt as if the flag was being disrespected.

Sadly, police brutality against the black community is still overlooked because people are so worried about Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem. It’s almost as if it was just brushed off and people only wanted to talk about if he should get in trouble for kneeling.

There has only been one player who has knelt this season. Will that reignite the debate all over again? Some people feel this conversation is far from over, while others hope it fades off.  Why do people not like to talk about this particular topic? Is it too touchy or are people afraid to be judged on what they believe? Either way, no one should be afraid to speak their mind.

I, for one, plan to keep talking about it.