Patriotism in America: a stance on the National Anthem

John Mendelin, Arts & Entertainment Editor

On Sunday Sept. 9, President Trump tweeted yet another passionate stream of insults against the NFL in lieu of yet another controversial season: “Viewership declined 13%, the lowest in over a decade. If the players stood proudly for our Flag and Anthem, and it is all shown on broadcast, maybe ratings could come back? Otherwise worse!” After the first week of the 2018 season, two players have taken a knee (USA Today).

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began a bold movement when he took a knee during the playing of the National Anthem at a 2016 NFL preseason game, specifically in protest of police brutality and racial injustice in America. He then lost everything he worked for in his career as a professional football player and was left a free agent for the 2017 season.

Since the moment he kneeled, Kaepernick has given courage to many other athletes to take part in protests of their own. Hundreds across America have joined, even over the boundaries of professional and amateur sports. He also has been able to draw attention to groups such as Black Lives Matter and other protest organizations.

With the season underway, Nike released an ad campaign on Sept. 5 which features Kaepernick and is fueled by the sentiment of the movement. The ad is simplistic with a grayscale photo of Kaepernick’s stoic expression and text reading, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The ad directly linked Nike to Kaepernick and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Trump, to no surprise, was not without his own quarrels. In a Sept. 5 tweet he wrote: “…Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way? As far as the NFL is concerned, I just find it hard to watch, and always will, until they stand for the FLAG!”

Trump’s regular fiery Twitter musings would not ordinarily be any cause for alarm, but his deplorable tear down of free expression in the past poses a different concern. In the past year, he has made statements addressing the NFL and suggested kneeling players have their season restricted or even their citizenship stripped away on the grounds of treason.

The GOP platform, for which Trump claims he stands, was written specifically to value constitutional integrity above all else with their own website proclaiming they are “the party of the Constitution,” and they “oppose any restrictions or conditions that would discourage citizens from participating in public square or limit their ability to promote their ideas….” It is hypocritical for Trump to denounce players’ right to protest as the figurehead for this party, and it is dangerous for the president to believe in any form of speech restriction.

According to an article from QC Times, six Rock Island High School football players joined the nationwide protest during a home game in the 2017 season. The movement is growing increasingly relevant at the local level each time another player kneels; however, PV Football’s Head Coach Rusty VanWetzinga was ademment his players would absolutely never join in: “It’s really an expectation that everyone stands, and with our demographics, it’s really not an issue here. You look at somewhere like Rock Island, and that’s maybe a different story.”

VanWetzinga also added, “What has Colin Kaepernick sacrificed? Not much, but that’s just my opinion; and some people will jump on board just to go along with the movement. Those kind of actions are disrespectful here, especially to those with military and law enforcement families. High school football is different.”

What has Colin Kaepernick sacrificed? Not much, but that’s just my opinion; and some people will jump on board just to go along with the movement. Those kind of actions are disrespectful here, especially to those with military and law enforcement families. High school football is different.”

— Rusty VanWetzinga

Although it remains unclear how PV Football would handle the situation at home, players will continue to kneel elsewhere, as this country and its leaders have yet to address their reason for kneeling in the first place.

The National Anthem is an important piece of music woven into American tradition to showcase the presence of patriotism; however, athletes who kneel during its performance mean to encourage conversation, not to offend. Of course, its purpose is to honor those who have sacrificed, but it also gives America a national identity. There is nothing more American than making a bold statement of belief to gain the eye of the public.

The President and his followers have completely misconstrued the meaning behind the anthem. When they kneel, they do not seek to see this nation fail; they seek to create change in this already-great country using a platform where they are sure their voices will be heard. To strip away this right would be the beginning of its downfall.