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To Kneel or Not to Kneel

Avalon Skinner, Online Editor

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What does the National Anthem really mean to you? Is it a symbol for nationalism and unconditional love for the USA? Or is the anthem a way of representing the freedom of speech and expression we enjoy as Americans?

Over the last two years, America has erupted into a furious debate over the proper respect for the flag and the national anthem.

Some pro athletes have decided to take this historically revered act and use it as an opportunity to protest and create awareness. As expected, the country erupted in disbelief and nearly instantaneously created conflict.

The conflicts can be traced back to Colin Kaepernick, a San Francisco 49er, who chose to sit during the National Anthem over a year ago as a way to protest police brutality and the continued unequal treatment of minorities. Kaepernick’s actions sparked anger and criticism across the country. While a few players joined the protests, many were hesitant.

Then on September 23, President Trump famously called out the players on Twitter. Over the next two weeks, he posted a total of 22 times criticizing the NFL and its players.

Trump’s tweets claim that the kneeling players are “disrespecting our Flag & Country”, which brings up the question of his knowledge of the U.S. Flag Code. This code gives U.S. citizens guidelines on how to treat the flag.

According to usflag.org, Section 176 subsection C of the U.S. Flag Code states, “The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.” Based on this subsection, it would make sense that Trump would have more than one issue with the NFL’s respect for the flag, as it is introduced horizontally across the field at every game.

Subsection D goes on to state, “The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.” Considering this fact, why did Trump allow his campaign to use the flag on hats, shirts, sweatshirts, and posters that clearly supported him for president?

So why is this form of protest triggering Trump? As a man who promotes an “America First” mentality, he sees them as critics of the government. The initial intent of these protests was to bring more awareness to racial inequality, a social struggle since the 1950’s. However, Trump sees it as a face slap to America’s pride.

Another reason Trump has spoken out against the protests is that some players now are only participating in the protests to protest Trump himself. Trump’s ego is easily bruised, and it is definitely well-known that Trump does not enjoy getting his authority threatened.

Vice President Trump, Mike Pence spent thousands of dollars in early October to attend the Indianapolis Colts-San Francisco 49ers game with the Second Lady. As the National Anthem was announced, most people began to rise in a moment of patriotic spirit. More than a dozen members of the 49ers chose to take a knee. Pence and Trump had previously discussed the White House’s reaction if players took a knee. Shortly after the game started, Pence and his wife left the game, announcing it publicly on Twitter.

After Pence walked out of the game, Trump immediately showed his support of the act, tweeting, “I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.”

If Trump is so concerned with respect for our flag, he should take a look at history. For hundreds of years, people have used protest as a form to bring about change, particularly in the U.S. It has worked to a large extent for a lot of the issues brought to attention through these protests, so he should put that into context for his own beloved country. After all, the First Amendment is the first for a reason.

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To Kneel or Not to Kneel