What once held us together is now breaking us apart

Written by Dalton Smith

By Dalton Smith

As tensions rise and the country lies on the brink of possible nuclear war, the biggest concern in the United States remains the knees in the turf of football stadiums.

A trend has risen recently among players in the National Football League, where players refuse to stand during the national anthem. While standing for the anthem reportedly began in the 2009 season, many Americans view it as a national pastime and a showing of respect that shouldn’t be disparaged.

Although you could’ve turned on your TV this season and watched a few white players down for the anthem, the majority of people kneeling are African American players who believe that racism and inequality are very present in our country. Police brutality against people of color is the driving force behind anthem protests.

Upon first look, when Colin Kaepernick sat the bench during the anthem of a 2016 game, I felt strongly against it. My opinion of the national anthem is that it is not only a sign of recognition and respect for our armed services but also a sign of unity.

Aside from national tragedies, the playing of the anthem was one of the only times that all the members of our nation disregarded political views and differences.

The feeling of patriotism and togetherness that the anthem brought cannot, and I doubt will ever again, be matched by any activity.

I can’t tell what it feels like to be a person of color in today’s America, no white person can. That being said, I don’t feel my opinions are invalidated by the color of my skin.

The unity I wish to see in our country is no longer present, if it ever was there. The American flag has been recently regarded as insignificant by many members of our society, so I can only assume that the reasoning behind this has to be important. The problem is, the knee has taken significance over the issues.

While I and many others dislike seeing kneeling during the anthem, we have to recognize the problems that had to have arisen to get people to that point.

How can we stand united as a country, when people feel they are being treated like less of a human than their neighbors? I really do see where the NFL players who choose to kneel are coming from, but I just don’t think their protests have or will prove successful if they continue this way.

This is where my issues begin with the recent NFL protests.

Those of us who pay some attention to the news or look a little deeper into the issue will realize that the players choose to kneel to draw attention to racial injustice.

Kaepernick, being the first to stage one of these protests, had to answer for his actions and made it clear that he sat for something “bigger than football.” Since Kaepernick, however, these athletes seem to be silent.

No changes are going to come simply from a knee in the ground. The headlines aren’t filled with “Players speak out against inequality,” or something along those lines. Instead, the news and social media are filled with jerseys burning and anti-NFL rants.

The problem is this: people who are dumb enough to set fire to hundreds of dollars worth of NFL merchandise are speaking out on their issues more than the players are. The simple truth is: not everyone in this country speaks on issues that they have been educated or done research on.

It’s a lot easier for those people to look at videos all over Facebook and get outraged over the so-called “facts” being spewed out by all 500 of their closest friends behind lit-up computer screens. When hardly anyone involved wants to speak out on the problems, we cannot expect things to change.

The reason for the public outcry and fury against the the protests is because these professional athletes are thought to be role models, and people don’t like to see athletes do things they disagree with, whether it’s drawing an unnecessary roughness penalty or taking a knee during the anthem.

People like to watch football for the game; they don’t want politics to be drawn into it. While I wish that’s how it was, since I love the game and I dislike politics, I knew it was only a matter of time before they integrated.

When politics come into professional football, a great opportunity arises for pushing an agenda.

NFL players have one of the biggest stages in the world to voice their opinion and they could effectively do so if they tried, but the effort really isn’t there. As someone who has played and watched football for a long time, I can attest that many players love attention.

Whether it’s the flamboyant sleeves, cleats, visors, or touchdown dances, NFL players are no strangers to wanting the eyes on them. I fear that many of the players taking a knee are doing it because they want the cameras on them for a few minutes longer than they get on the field.

I respect Kaepernick for taking a seat and voicing his opinion. I don’t agree with sitting for the anthem, but at least he genuinely wanted to make a change, and he arguably lost his career for doing so.

I’d like to see how many players kneeling now are willing to lose their career for what they think is right. The only end I see to this soon, while I don’t agree with it, will be NFL rule changes requiring players stand during the anthem.

Only then will we see who the people that really care are.

The way I look at it, playing in the NFL means you are a professional. Just as any other professional must do, you are to present yourself in a way that represents the company well, and standing out (in a negative way) could result in losing your job.

The thing about Kaepernick is that he probably understood what was coming to him, but he voiced his opinion anyway. That’s what needs to happen for an issue to get changed.

The players need to show they’re willing to do anything to make a change, not just sit down.

I want to see changes made in America.

I know things aren’t great for everyone right now, but we need some sort of symbol to bring us together. While it’s not their intention, all taking a knee has done is divide us further.

Even if people don’t think the anthem is an important sign of unity, football used to be one of the best ways for everyone to get together and enjoy life. People of all races join together as brothers and lay everything on the line for each other in the games.

Touchdowns flash on screens in sports bars and everyone cheers and hugs whoever happens to be closest to them. These activities exist because of football, and I’m afraid we’re losing even that because of this divide.

This country’s divide is only going to be solved when people start acting on issues that need fixed. If you’re going to kneel, offer up some solutions, actively work to make a change and make people aware of the problem. Taking a knee isn’t enough and it never will be.

We have to decide if we really want to solve the problems and come together, or if we’re happy with the divide.

About the author

Dalton Smith

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