By: Luke Roberts and Luke Dryer
The National Football League has been the centerpiece of sports in America for a long time now, consistently the most popular entertainment among players and fans for over three decades. Although it comes with its fair share of jaw dropping moments and high flying catches, the sport has recently taken a backlash across the country due to players protesting during the National Anthem. There has been this movement for equality ever since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during last year’s season, causing many teammates and players abroad to support him. Because of President Trump’s Inauguration and his Twitter comments, the protests have only increased and the NFL has received many complaints from its fan base that owners should fine players who kneel. Some fans have even started boycotting the games and refusing to watch them until the issue is fixed. The question of whether these protests are respectful or not to the flag not only concerns the NFL, but America as a whole. As two students seeing this as a serious issue, we decided to ask some fellow teachers and students about their thoughts on the NFL protests during the National Anthem.
One reason the NFL is receiving so much anger over this issue may be that this is not the first point of controversy, rather this is the final straw. The NFL has faced a lot of heat from the public eye over their players’ characters. This is a point that Mr. Fightmaster made in his interview. “This year I’ve moved towards watching college football instead of pro. As a Bengals fan I’ve lost interest because they aren’t very good, and also their players have low character.” Many are tired of all the politics and news coming out of the NFL that isn’t strictly related to football. When asked about his thoughts on the actual protest, Mr. Fightmaster responded saying “The protest were more of a reaction to Trump, not the actual issue. When Kaepernick kneeled, nobody noticed for weeks. When Trump made his comments, everything got overblown.” Fightmaster went on to clarify that “The cause isn’t overblown, it’s the players exercising their 1st amendment right.” This is an interesting point, or : to recognize the recent attention given to the protest is likely a response more to the President than to the actual cause. When asked how players could protest and honor the flag, Mr. Fightmaster brings up an interesting point of view: “Players kneeling isn’t being disrespectful to the flag. No player would say they aren’t proud to be an American. They are kneeling because they see the country for what it is and want to see it change. They love America and want to see it become better. They see how good it could be.”
Many others however object to the protest. Senior Elisha Fowler has many thoughts on this topic and absolutely takes this side. When asked on his thoughts of the protest, he said “it made me angry because I viewed it as disrespectful to the flag. You are basically saying ‘hey buddy, we don’t really care what you are doing on the battlefield’ even as these soldiers are sacrificing their lives for you. [The anthem] was meant to bring our country together and honor those that served.” Elisha takes this protesting very personally and has a passionate opinion because he is currently enlisted in the military. “When people kneel, that shows no support for our nation’s military and those that decide to fight for our country,” Elisha went on to say.
Elisha said the following about President Trump’s comments: “ I think that President Trump was right in saying that they needed to stand in order to honor their country, but some of his later comments (about firing these players) were unnecessary because the players did have the right to the first amendment and their freedom of speech.” Elisha believes that the NFL is meant to bring families and friends together to enjoy food and games, not to think about political issues and watching players disrespecting the anthem.
Although Elisha and Mr. Fightmaster have mostly contrasting views on the anthem, they both agree that the situation is very overblown and taken too far by some players. Neither of them even watch the NFL much any more, one because they are often busy and also, in Mr. Fightmaster’s case, he enjoys watching college football more. Whether you think that kneeling during the anthem is justifiable or not, there is an obvious truth that there is division within the NFL, and it will continue to divide the league and its fanbase unless this situation is resolved.