National Anthem Protests: Does the outrage stem from the method or the merit?

Pregame National Anthem ceremonies have sparked a sustained level of controversy not typically seen by today’s standards ever since former 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided he would use it as a platform to protest police brutality last August. But, the issue reached new heights when the President of the U.S., Donald Trump, decided to weigh in on the matter at a rally in Alabama on Sept. 22. 

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired,” said Trump, according to USA Today. 

First of all, we do not understand why the president feels compelled to comment — let alone take sides — on such a divisive issue. Especially at a time where there is so much more for him to focus on, like diffusing tensions with North Korea, tax code overhaul or the devastation in Puerto Rico. 

Second, we are troubled by the inconsistencies between his strong condemnation of NFL players kneeling and his rather lackluster condemnation of white supremacists following the death of an anti-racism protester at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month. He did not even formally condemn white supremacy until Congress had sent him a resolution on the matter, which he commented on and signed on Sept. 14. 

Finally, we feel President Trump is missing an opportunity to get to the root of why these protests are occurring in the first place. He has expressed, on multiple occasions, that he feels the protests are disrespectful to the American flag, National Anthem and the U.S. in general. 

And this is true, if we are adhering to U.S. Flag Code, which suggests those present should stand at attention with their hand over their heart during the National Anthem. In many cases, though, this code would also make many who share his opinion hypocrites. It also frowns upon things such as, disposable flag products, using the flag for advertising purposes, wearing American flag clothing or carrying the flag flat (which is done during many NFL National Anthem Ceremonies), according to Huffington Post.

Not once has President Trump commented on what players are protesting, though, and many have made it very clear. It’s about police brutality and other inequities faced by African Americans in today’s society. The fact of the matter is, it is just much simpler to boil it down to a problem with the means of communicating the message, rather than focusing on the message itself. 

Trump has tweeted that his issue with kneeling is not about race, and it may very well not be. But, a poll conducted by Reuters last year suggests those who share his sentiments are clearly divided by race. According to the poll, 63 percent of white Americans disapprove of the anthem protests, while just 17 percent of black Americans felt that way.

Historically, this is how white people have responded to demonstrations by African Americans. Polls from the Civil Rights-era of the 1960s show that white Americans largely felt demonstrations by African Americans hurt their cause. A 1966 Harris Survey showed that 85 percent of white people felt this way, while a 1964 Gallup poll put the number at 74 percent, according to 

Yet today, we hold those protests and their nonviolent nature in high regard. So, while we feel it is the right of everyone to disapprove of the method these players are employing, it is also important to be conscious of why it is upsetting in the first place. Fox Sports 1 host Nick Wright presented a thought-provoking hypothetical on “First Things First” so individuals could answer that very question to themselves. 

“If Colin Kaepernick, who started this whole thing, when he was asked why are you not standing for the anthem, he had said, ‘I’ll be honest with you, I think no one protects that flag more than our soldiers, and I do not think our soldiers are treated fairly when they come back to this country — they do not have adequate health care, they do not have adequate benefits, they do not have adequate job opportunities — and until they get that, I’m not standing for the anthem,’ would you still be mad? Because he’d be disrespecting the flag just the same way.”

Is the problem with the method or the merit?

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