By Ashley Hazan
Politics has become a wildfire. Conservatives and liberals alike have argued heavily about tax reforms, healthcare, and aiding states in need. However, a new conflict has risen to the stage, forcing other controversial issues into the shadows. Football. Many N.F.L. players have decided to protest racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem at their games. Whether it is a sign of disrespect, or an exercise of freedom of speech, critics and supporters continue to weigh in on the controversy.
Last year, Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49er, captured America’s attention by refusing to stand for the anthem. Although this act went unnoticed in the pre-season, many caught on soon after; Kaepernick received extreme backlash from football fans and politicians but stood firm to his beliefs: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Kaepernick intended to use his platform to make the American people more aware of the hardships and injustices African Americans still encounter. Kaepernick is presently not signed to any team this season.
On September 22nd, President Trump attended a rally for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange. Trump, wanting to appeal to the conservative tendencies of the southern state, boldly singled out the National Football League. Trump claimed that players who knelt during the national anthem, originally in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, have disrespected the community, the country, and the veterans. “…Because that’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect for everything we stand for,” Trump said. Rally attendees roared with approval.
Both republicans and democrats have continued to debate this issue in public. Most republicans side with Trump, agreeing that kneeling is an extreme sign of disrespect. To stand and link arms with teammates is one thing, but to break an American tradition, one that has been created by the Founding Fathers, is an atrocity in itself. On the other hand, Democrats strongly argue that football players in the N.F.L. took a knee to highlight the more important domestic conflicts that America still faces. It is not an attack on the veterans who served the country, but an outlet to express the firm stance these players hold.
The students at Oyster Bay High School have recently expressed their thoughts about kneeling for the anthem. When asked about the controversy, senior Cristian Garcia simply stated, “[The players] are doing the right thing.”
Other students have voiced their opinions as well. “I personally think they’re using their platform to fight against injustices their communities are facing with law enforcement. Those who are saying it is disrespectful are just trying to deflect the message of the protest,” senior Chris Colvin expressed. He added, “However, their protest loses power in its vague and unorganized message. The original, clear message loses its direction as more people join.”
Jon Petrara, another senior, voiced a different view about the protest. When asked for his thoughts, he explained, “I think that the N.F.L. players are uninformed for kneeling. The president is our president, and we elected him; [kneeling for the anthem] goes against the democratic nature of our country, and casts a shadow on an already dark time.”
This controversy has affected the lives of many, from citizens in the small town of Oyster Bay to famous players in the N.F.L. This particular form of protesting has prompted all citizens to think about the impact of kneeling for the national anthem.