Controversy has risen the past few years about taking a knee during the national anthem. More recently in the media, President Trump has been calling athletes out and shaming them on Twitter for displaying this behavior.
Ariyana Smith, a former Knox College basketball player, demonstrated this by dropping to her knees and falling to the ground during a game in Clayton, Mo. in 2014 to draw attention to the recent Ferguson shooting. She was then suspended from the basketball team and shortly offered her position back after the larger national context was recognized.
Smith became the first collegiate athlete to advocate Black Lives Matter by laying in front of the flag- preventing the game from commencing- for four and a half minutes because Michael Brown lay in the street for four and a half hours after being killed.
In 2016, Colin Kaepernick began protesting by kneeling during the national anthem during games to bring attention to police brutality against African-Americans. Kaepernick hasn’t been signed to a team recently which many players attribute to his political stance.
President Trump, at a rally in Alabama, addressed this issue by saying “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘get that son of a b**** off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”
In response to this statemnt, hundreds of players and several owners demonstrated their support for a players right to kneel during the anthem in various ways. Almost all of the Oakland Raiders, 32 of the Denver Broncos and 18 New England Patriots players took a knee during their next games anthem. Several other teams had similar demonstrations.
Trump tweeted, “Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their national anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy!” and “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the national anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
TKS asked several student athletes to give their opinions on taking a knee during the anthem. They related their experiences as athletes and their personal feelings towards the opinions in the media today.
“The national anthem is the only commonality between all sports to be able to take a stand as an athletic community and state that there’s this injustice and I think that so far it has really opened up that dialogue. It’s allowed people to express themselves, and opened up the opportunity to address these as the U.S. in general. So I really think there’s reason for it. [Athletes] are also the most prominent in society to make a ginormous statement, and I think there is a statement to be made.” -Junior Sierra Daniger, soccer player.
“It’s just that athletes are put on so much of a pedestal, and it’s like when something like this is going on, like clear racism and stuff like that, and athletes have the platform already to voice their political opinions, why not do it on that platform? Everyone will listen. It’s like trying to get people to hear their opinions and voice their thoughts, I don’t see why people shouldn’t voice their opinions.” -Sophomore Taliah Ellis, basketball player.
“I am a very strong believer in giving respect to the military, to the cops, the fire department, all those people and the national anthem is a time to give thanks to them and I am a very strong believer in that. I believe it’s okay for them to knee before the anthem, after the anthem, I see standing as a huge thing for the anthem. They can raise their fist, they can do all that but I see taking a knee as a disrespect to the flag and to everyone that protects this country.” -Sophomore Bryce Wilkinson, basketball player.
“For me, it’s not right but people have to find a way to express their opinions and show the people of America that what’s happening isn’t right. They could find a better way to do it. I’m not sure what that would be but it draws people’s attention so it’s probably the best thing they could do in their minds. I wouldn’t personally do it, but it’s good they’re getting the attention.” -Sophomore Braeden Westfall, football player.
“Whether you agree with them or not, I think it is important that they have the right to do it. I think whatever your opinion is, the message behind the kneeling [is one] you’re entitled to. I think the fact is that the act itself is something everyone should respect, everyone’s got the right to their own opinion and the right to publicly state it.” -Senior Sam Tatum, soccer player.
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“Personally, I don’t really think it’s right to kneel during the anthem. It’s disrespectful, you should stand. You have to think about the people who died and the people that can’t stand, you know what I’m saying? I wouldn’t do it.” -Freshman Charlie Johnson, football player.