As you may have seen, there’s quite a large protest being undertaken by American football players in the NFL. A chap called Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback formerly of the 49ers started sitting during the playing of the national anthem to protest police brutality against blacks in the US. There’s quite a lot to this, strap yourself in.
Physicality of the Protest
It started when Kaepernick sat during the playing of the national anthem at the beginning of each NFL game. When Kaepernick was approached by Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former NFL player, Boyer suggested taking a knee rather than sitting as it is more respectful – something often seen at military funerals.
This kind of protest has been used for years, over one hundred in fact. Most famously Tommie Smith and John Carlos both raised their fists and bowed their heads during the anthem at the 1968 Olympics to promote human rights. As far back as 1892 after a lynching in Memphis, Tennessee a crowd was gathered by Rev. W. Gaines in Chicago and refused to sing the de facto anthem of the time to protest the lynching.
What the protest is about
The protest has only ever been about police brutality and racial inequality. Granted it is now aimed at Trump and his perceived embodiment of those things, but what it definitely is not about is disrespecting the anthem, the flag, the military, or the country. The move to switch from sitting to kneeling was for exactly this reason.
A lot of people on both sides of the aisle have taken offence to the protests saying that the players are directly disrespecting the anthem, the flag, the military, and the country. If they were burning the flag, that would be an unambiguous statement of that fact, this is not that. Kaepernick has always maintained what this protest is about and if people choose to read it as something that he has publicly and categorically stated it is not, then that’s their lookout.
Trump has repeatedly railed against the protest and Vice President Pence staged a walkout of a 49ers Vs Colts game two weeks ago. Both claim that the protest disrespects the anthem, flag, military, country. For Trump to come down so hard on someone for supposed disrespect to the military is ironic for the following reasons: he once compared his dating and sexual experience to fighting in Vietnam and going to a military style boarding school as akin to being in the military; claiming that Senator John McCain isn’t a war hero because he got captured; he had a running dispute with a Gold Star family (the family of a fallen soldier) during his 2016 campaign, suggesting that Mrs Khan was not allowed to speak by her husband because they are Muslim; he used the commencement speech he gave to a class of US Coast Guard graduates to talk about how the media was mistreating him, including this “No politician in history…has been treated worse or more unfairly.” Presumably putting aside the likes of Mandela, Ghandi, Malcolm X amongst others; he is widely recognised as having dodged the draft, and finally, this week he called the mother of a serviceman recently killed in Niger and said “He knew what he signed up for.” Those in glass houses should not throw stones.
The millennial generation or people of around that age are often called ‘snowflakes’ as a sign of contempt, hinting that they are delicate, too politically correct, and can’t handle criticism. This protest is about freedom of speech. It does not adversely affect anyone else, it does not incite hatred or violence, and, as made clear by the man who started it, the protest is not against the things that those who are taking offence want to believe it is about. Millennials are getting worked up about swastikas flying in the country that defeated nazism, not about someone taking a knee.