OUR VIEW: Kneeling during the anthem is not un-American

OUR VIEW: Kneeling during the anthem is not un-American

Recently, head coach Nick Saban was asked what he thought about the political climate and the national anthem protests that have been dominating sports coverage. Though he did not issue any strong sentiments for either side of the cause, saying that he was “just a football coach” who didn’t have time to pay attention to such things, he did state that he “respects everyone’s rights not to be censored in terms of the way they express their beliefs.” The Crimson White Editorial Board could not agree more.

Players that choose to kneel for the anthem are speaking out against the injustice and bigotry that they see in this nation. Though recent media narratives have painted their actions as a kind of anti-Trump protest, it is crucial to remember that this movement still represents what Colin Kaepernick originally knelt for in 2015, long before Trump won the presidency— a call to end police brutality against black Americans. These players are exercising their First Amendment rights to peacefully protest, hoping that their actions will bring attention to the racial divisions that still plague this country.

Unfortunately, some people, most vocally our president, have perverted the message of these protests, claiming that those who kneel are disrespecting the flag and the soldiers who died to protect what it represents. It seems not to matter to this contingent that one of the rights those soldiers so valiantly fought for is the almost-sacred American right to free speech. They have decided that kneeling for the anthem is a giant middle finger to America and its troops, even going so far as to call these protests a fireable offense.

What President Trump and those who subscribe to his beliefs about the flag need to understand is that patriotism can take many forms. There is unflinching, unwavering patriotism, where no matter the sins of your country, you will stand for the flag and all you believe it represents. There is critical, conscious patriotism where you believe that your country can do better and you will protest its symbols until this nation comes to embody the ideas you believe in. The fact that both of these forms of patriotism can coexist in relative peace without bloodshed and violence is the core of what truly makes America great.

At The University of Alabama, the issue of national anthem protests by players is largely void given that our team has always stood in the locker room during the anthem. However, issues of racism and bigotry still plague this campus and many students often feel compelled to speak out against this. Last season, a group of students known as “Bama Sits” was heavily criticized for choosing to sit in solidarity with national player protests. Some even received threats on social media, with fellow students claiming that if Bama Sits protested again, they would force them to stand. 

This kind of violent discourse is unacceptable at UA. Students should feel safe exercising their right to protest and those that disagree with them should realize that accepting differences in the way we express our patriotism helps our democracy thrive. Should students choose to protest at the Ole Miss game this weekend, they should be met not with jeers and threats, but with acceptance and understanding of their rights. Anything less would be un-American.  

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