Taking a knee

photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license

photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license

Aleka Damiano, Staff Writer

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In NFL stadiums across the country, professional athletes’ actions to kneel during the flag salute are speaking louder than Donald Trump’s words on Twitter.

Sunday: a day dedicated to spending time with family and watching football. How quintessentially American. Although unrelated, it is unarguable that there is nothing more quintessentially American than a political debate. What if the two went together? This question was answered last Sunday, September the 24th.The National Football League butted heads with President Donald Trump in a political ball game. Various professional players chose to kneel on their side lines during the playing National Anthem; in some cases multiple athletes knelt while locking arms. Some recalled the previous Colin Kaepernick protests, in which the quarterback refused to stand during the flag salute. Kaepernick’s defiance was fueled by the “Black Lives Matter” movement. However, as of late, not only one player has sparked controversy, but entire teams. In fact, the entirety of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team remained in the locker room; only Alejandro Villanueva appeared on the field. Villanueva served three tours in Afghanistan and is a decorated veteran. The Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks also did not present themselves during the anthem before their face-off either.

It is important to recognize that unlike Kaepernick’s motivations, the recent kneeling is not over one single social issue. These oppositions were motivated by polarizing tweets from the President, asking that players who knelt to be fired for their supposed crime. After viewing several protests, President Trump resorted to his familiar communication platform of Twitter to condemn such actions: “Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy!” Even more surprisingly, team owners that had once supported Mr. Trump during his campaign were seen joining their players on the sidelines, arm in arm. The president’s tweet resonated negatively with athletes beyond football, as demonstrated by Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors’ refusal to visit the White House on personal invitation.

Despite one’s personal opinion on the kneeling controversy, it is important to recognize the legitimacy for a debate in both sides of the argument. Is it the legal right, and furthermore, the constitutional right for player’s to be allowed the option to kneel during the National Anthem? Is preventing such actions a violation of Amendments such are the first? Surely such a debate is reminiscent of, Texas v. Johnson, which made protests of the desecration of the flag invalid. If desecration of the flag is protected by the First Amendment, is kneeling during the National Anthem protected as well? The answer is not certain, however, it may be more than likely the American people will have an aggressive battle on their hands; not one on the field on a Sunday night, but on Capitol Hill.

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