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“Take a knee” movement sparks nationwide controversy

Dallas+Cowboys+players+and+staff%2C+including+owner+Jerry+Jones+and+head+coach+Jason+Garrett%2C+all+take+a+knee+before+the+singing+of+the+National+Anthem+prior+to+the+start+of+a+game+against+the+Arizona+Cardinals+at+University+of+Phoenix+Stadium+Monday%2C+Sept.+25%2C+2017+in+Glendale%2C+Ariz.
Dallas Cowboys players and staff, including owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett, all take a knee before the singing of the National Anthem prior to the start of a game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 in Glendale, Ariz.

Dallas Cowboys players and staff, including owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett, all take a knee before the singing of the National Anthem prior to the start of a game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 in Glendale, Ariz.

Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News/TNS

Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News/TNS

Dallas Cowboys players and staff, including owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett, all take a knee before the singing of the National Anthem prior to the start of a game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 in Glendale, Ariz.

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On Aug. 14, 2016, the San Francisco 49ers’ starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a seat on the bench during the national anthem before a preseason game. His protest was not officially acknowledged until Aug. 26, when the 49ers’ released a statement saying why Kaepernick sat during the anthem and let him speak on it.

Kaepernick explained his actions in a press conference, saying that he was doing this in protest of the recent police brutality cases throughout the United States. “I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. When there’s significant change and I feel that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand,” Kaepernick said. This started a country-wide controversy between differing political groups such as nationalists and Black Lives Matter supporters.

Since then, other professional athletes have followed suit in sitting or kneeling during the anthem. On Sept.1, 2016, 49ers’ safety Eric Reid knelt beside Kaepernick while other teammates raised a fist in protest during the anthem. Even non-athletes joined the movement like singer Leah Tysse, who knelt while singing the National Anthem before a Sacramento Kings basketball game. The movement started to grow and gain more attention from prominent figures.

A year after Kaepernick’s first protest, President Donald Trump spoke about this issue in a speech in Alabama on Sept. 22, 2017. He stated that he hoped the NFL team owners would fire any “son of a bitch” protesting and disrespecting the flag. The following Sunday, more protesting occurred throughout parts of the NFL, even at a game taking place out of the country in London.

The idea that individuals should be punished for exercising peacefully their First Amendment rights is wrong. It’s clearly constitutionally protected speech.”

— Social studies teacher Rodney Johnson

The Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars faced off in Wembley Stadium in London on Sept. 24. As the crowd rose to stand for the National Anthem before the game, players on both teams began to kneel in unison.

Religion teacher Tom Vierheller was a marine and is against this type of protesting. “I think it’s in their rights to do this, but it is misdirected and not working towards a solution. The United States are not very united right now and disrespecting the flag does not help us become united, but does the opposite. The flag and anthem are symbols of our commonality,” said Vierheller.

Others like social studies teacher Rodney Johnson advocate for people’s Bill of Rights. “The idea that individuals should be punished for exercising peacefully their First Amendment rights is wrong. It’s clearly constitutionally protected speech. I also believe that with the First Amendment comes a tremendous amount of responsibility. At the end of the day, I am governed by my conscience,” said Johnson.

Kaepernick’s protest has spread far beyond its original starting point at the pre-season game in 2016. Gaining feedback from multiple media sources and important governmental figures, athletes have begun to speak on how our society can change the issue at hand. When interviewed by FOX Sports, Seattle Seahawks wideout Doug Baldwin said, “Change is inevitable. Change will always happen. But you got to apply direction to change, and that’s when it’s progress.”

Update: Houston Texans owner Robert McNair took part in a press conference with ESPN and was asked about the recent protests. McNair in response said, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.” This sparked another wave of protest through his own team so in turn he ended up tweeting an apology and said, “I used a figure of speech that was never intended to be taken literally. I would never characterize our players or our league that way and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it.”

Karson Langrehr is an In-Focus Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.

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“Take a knee” movement sparks nationwide controversy