NFL players kneeling ignites controversy


In 2018 many American citizens are feeling that the song that brought so many together is a source of divide within our nation.  On Sept. 2, 2016, 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the National Anthem, something no NFL player had previously done. NFL personnel such as owner Jerry Jones, and players Desean Jackson and Martellus Bennett followed Kaepernick’s lead by kneeling during the national anthem in order to protest what they saw as police brutality and discrimination targeting African Americans.

The movement of NFL players kneeling during the anthem has upset many American citizens, particularly those with some affiliation to the military or law enforcement.  Notably, President Trump opposed the movements, tweeting: “Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for the National Anthem or their Country.” Most recently Nike weighed in on the controversy when they selected Kaepernick as the face of their 30 year ad campaign.  Some Americans protested Nike by burning their products, while others gained much respect for the corporation for taking the risk.

Although so many took the kneeling to be offensive to the armed forces and everything our country was founded on, others believe it is the exact opposite and that taking a knee for the Star Spangled Banner demonstrates great patriotism.

“I think protest is an important part of our national narrative,” Alex Close, English teacher and ELD coordinator, said.  “You know, in middle school and high-school classrooms. You know, in middle and high school classrooms and across the nation we celebrate things like the Boston Tea Party, which was essentially a protest, not by athletes.”

Kaepernick and others influenced student Abdul Ali to take a knee himself.  A two sport athlete, Ali has played varsity soccer for the school since his freshman year and kicks for the football team.  He started kneeling during the national anthem his junior year.

“I’ve been doing it since last year,” Ali said, “And for me, it’s just more about bringing awareness to a community like West Linn because there’s so much that goes on here like outside of our bubble that we live in, and people don’t really understand that.  So it’s just like my way of bringing that to here.”

While the athletic director Mark Horak said “We will support students in giving them a voice,” Ali’s kneeling has offended other West Linn residents, including his own teammate.  According to Ali, his teammate told him he thought his kneeling to be disrespectful, as both his parents had served in the military. This student is not alone in his perspective; many feel that it inappropriate to demonstrate in this manner when military personnel are risking their lives in the name of our country.  

Ali responded by saying “I have the utmost respect for people who served our country, especially people who put their lives out there for us.  But I’m not doing it to them. The National Anthem doesn’t mean, ‘Hey this is for the military.’ You know, it stands for America as a whole. And if America as a whole is being OK with police brutality to the African Americans or the deportation of Hispanic Latino community and blatant racism to everyone, that’s something that you guys can’t turn a blind eye to.  And that’s pretty disrespectful as well.”