Lately, the NFL has been making headlines because of players kneeling during the national anthem during football games. The players are kneeling as a protest against what they see as social injustice in the U.S.
In the past several years, many black people have been shot and killed by police officers, with police officers escaping any serious consequences. While the debate rages on about whether these officers were justified in shooting or not, San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick has sparked a series of protests in his decision to kneel during the national anthem at every football game he plays at.
Kaepernick began his protest by sitting during the anthem in the 2016 preseason. Kaepernick told NFL.com, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color…There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick went unnoticed for the first few games. During the third game, according to SBNation.com, a photo on Twitter happened to show Kaepernick sitting, and the story blew up. He held a meeting with the media a couple of days later to explain his reasoning behind remaining seated.
The public attempted to turn the protest into a nationwide debate about disrespecting the military. In order to keep attention on the protest, Kaepernick met with former Green Beret and NFL long snapper Nate Boyer. The two decided to meet after Boyer wrote an open letter to Kaepernick. According to CBSsports.com, Boyer said, “We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammates. Soldiers take a knee…in front of a fallen brother’s grave to show respect.”
According to PBS.org, from 2011 to 2014 the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) paid millions of dollars to almost half of the NFL teams in order call attention to soldiers during games. This included halftime segments dedicated to the military. Rumors that the DOD paid players to stand during the national anthem have sprouted from this information; however, that is untrue.
The song, “The Star-Spangled Banner”, became the national anthem in 1931. It was not until after World War II that the anthem came into widespread use thanks to loudspeakers and sound systems, according to CNN.com. This allowed parks to play the song without having to hire a band to play it. Originally, NFL players were in the locker rooms during the anthem; in 2009, players became mandated to be on the sidelines for the anthem.
The NFL has no specific code for how to behave during the national anthem, according to CNN.com. So while the United States may have a protocol, according to the NFL, Kaepernick is within his rights to use his status as a platform to protest. Kaepernick’s protests in the 2016 season have sparked a larger series of protests during this season; only time will show the long-term effects of the NFL protestors.