Op-Ed: Kneeling and Freedom of Speech

Jalees Briggs, Staff Writer

Would you call it disrespectful when John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists during the 1968 Olympics? I surely wouldn’t. I think it is a calm protest that helped make an important statement. And by those two men doing that, they started a movement and a moment that would last forever.

  In the NFL, there’s a lot of controversy going on about players kneeling for the national anthem. The man who started this movement is former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick told the NFL media last year in an exclusive interview that he no longer stands for the national anthem because he is “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” After this, he proceeded to say, “To me this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my half to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” There are many other people who support Colin Kaepernick’s movement to kneel during the national anthem, but one person who stood out to me is former Laker Kobe Bryant. According to cbssports.com Kobe appeared on the Hollywood Reporter’s “Awards Chatter” podcast on October 5 where  he  was asked what he would do during the anthem if he was still in league. “Kneel” is what Kobe responded, in a question and answer portion with the podcast. A former NBA player who has been out of the league for a year, says that he would kneel for the national anthem. And with that being said, Colin Kaepernick must be doing something right. In my opinion, Colin Kaepernick’s actions are justified because in today’s society there are a lot of things that police and others have done wrongly to African American people. And since it seems that not enough is being done about the situation at hand, Colin took it upon himself to do something about it in a calm, non-violent way by taking  a knee during the national anthem to show people that we can put a stop to this without using violent tactics.       

However, we all know there is always two sides to a story. President Donald Trump is strongly opposed to athletes kneeling for the national anthem. On September 30th, Donald Trump tweeted that it is “very important that NFL players STAND tomorrow and always for the playing of our national anthem. Respect our flag and our country.” President Trump also said in another tweet on October 18th, “The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our national anthem. Total disrespect for our great country.” President Trump has a valid opinion that players should have respect for their flag and their country by standing for the national anthem. But people who believe it is disrespectful to kneel are going about this the wrong way. Telling people they can’t kneel during the national anthem is taking away their freedom of speech. People in the military fight every day to give our country freedom, so if you think about it, athletes who kneel are in fact honoring the flag by using their right to freedom of speech to peacefully protest inequities in our country.


* photo via Google Images under the Creative Commons license