As fans in stadiums across the country prepare to watch athletes throw a ball across a field, those in the land of the free and the home of the brave rise to their feet. Before the first whistle is blown to start the game, the national anthem is played.
The anthem is played as a way to honor the country that allows us the freedom to routinely watch individuals with superior athletic talent play football. The song is played while NFL teams stand in a display of solidarity on the field. This practice has become routine since the Department of Defense started paying teams for their players to be on field during the anthem. This display of patriotism is watched by the millions of viewers of football from both stadiums and living rooms.
Few things are more quintessentially American than the national anthem and football.
If we’re listing things that are undeniably American, the right to protest should be added to the list. Even before the United States was established as a democracy, colonists on American soil were throwing tea into the Boston Harbor to make a statement and protest British taxes on the colonies.
When there is some sort of injustice, it should be protested as peacefully as possible. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sees an injustice in the way black individuals in America are treated. To draw attention to this, he has protested by taking a knee during the national anthem when it is played before NFL games.
Kaepernick’s protest has drawn criticism from those who believe the national anthem should not be disrespected. To these individuals, he is anti-American and a “whiny, indulgent, attention-seeking crybaby,” according to uber-conservative internet personality Tomi Lahren.
These same individuals tend to cry for peaceful protests when violent scenes from Ferguson, Missouri, and Charlotte, North Carolina, are displayed on the news. But when Kaepernick peacefully protests for the same thing people are protesting in these cities, he is ridiculed for his method of protesting.
His protests should be commended. He is attempting to draw attention to the racial inequalities in this country. He is protesting the racial inequalities that lead to the disproportionate imprisonment of minorities and the repeated killing by police of unarmed black individuals.
Those who say they don’t like Kaepernick’s form of protest are using this as a way to hide that they disagree with what he is protesting. For some reason, it makes these people too uncomfortable to even consider that the land of the free isn’t as free for some as it is for others.
This form of protest has spread to the collegiate level. When the University of Pennsylvania played Lehigh in football last week, one Penn cheerleader kneeled during the anthem and another raised her fist. Lafayette students sat during the national anthem in protest at the football game against Villanova on Saturday.
If Lehigh students were to protest in this form, they should be supported. The Lehigh football team is not on the field when the anthem is played, but if a player felt the desire to protest in this manner, he should be commended. Kaepernick and those who have peacefully protested should be commended.
As an admittedly homogeneous editorial board, it is not our place to tell players they should protest during the national anthem. We will say, however, that we will support anyone who chooses to take a knee or raise a fist during the anthem.
The national anthem is played to remind us, among other things, of how far this country has come. This country also has a long way to go until all individuals are treated equally and not oppressed.
If there are protests without bombs bursting in air, let them be encouraged. United we stand. United we kneel.