This past week has been an eventful week for sports in the sense that the President has stirred up such a controversy that it has made the entire sports world react. It began with the President calling NFL players who protested during the National Anthem by kneeling “sons of bitches,” and encouraging team owners to fire them for protesting. It appeared that he was directly targeting Colin Kaepernick and his protest during the Anthem that started last year. That next Sunday, the protest that originally consisted of less than 10 players jumped to upwards of 180, with players kneeling and locking arms throughout the National Anthem. Even one performer at a Detroit Lions game kneeled after his performance. There were owners — some who had previously supported Trump — on the field locking arms or kneeling with their players. While this is all great, it seems as though people have perverted the purpose of the protest into Black athletes vs. America and the troops. This idea is completely ludicrous.
The entire protest started with former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sitting for the National Anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality. At first he was sitting during the Anthem — then former veteran and Seattle Seahawks player Nate Boyer convinced Kaepernick to kneel instead sitting. He was quoted as saying, “We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammate. Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect.”
The fact this discussion has become American patriotism vs black athletes is absurd. The athletes who are protesting the anthem want to shed light onto the issues that the public still refuses to address as a problem — yet the president and the media have turned the conversation into “troops vs athletes.” These athletes are just as patriotic as anyone else in America. Is it because they are black that they cannot protest or fight inequality?
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah brought up an interesting point — when can black people protest? Historically, black people throughout history have not been able to protest without being ridiculed, demonized, or worse. Muhammad Ali protested the Vietnam War and was thrown in jail. Martin Luther King protested inequality and was assassinated. Jemele Hill said the president is a white supremacist on Twitter, and the president responded that she should be fired from ESPN. When these athletes are protesting a system of oppression, the oppressors become scared of the uppity, ungrateful, black athletes disturbing the system and messing up the money to be made in this system. This protest makes clear the division and hatred this country has continually tried to hide and deny. Many of the people who are anti-protest are saying this is disrespecting patriots when in actuality veterans are coming out in support saying they support their first amendment right to protest. Still, the Commander-in-Chief cannot wrap his head around the idea that these athletes are not anti-American, but rather anti-racism, opposing the oppression and brutality that goes on in their communities.
Now, will Kalamazoo be the next to protest? We consider ourselves a progressive school, but will we see the Anthem protest hit our fields or courts this year? There has been no sign of it yet. Will we see Kalamazoo align with the NFL players in their protest against oppression, or will we stand still and keep this in the classrooms with no action? I do not have the answers to these questions, but I do know that in my mind, the National Anthem is now seen in a different light, and I will be joining the “ungrateful black millionaires” in their protest against oppression. Will you, Kalamazoo?