On August 26, 2016 the sports world was taken by storm when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick received national attention for sitting during the national anthem prior to a game. A response to the systematic oppression of people of color by the police, Kaepernick told the National Football League media that he was ” not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Although the event transpired more than a year ago, the demonstration against the flag and the national anthem has proliferated in other NFL teams and other sports as well, and instances of protest have occurred in varying degrees since Kaepernick’s initial protests.
What is most interesting is the statements that president Donald Trump and ex-president Barack Obama gave in response to the actions of professional athletes. On one hand you have former President Obama who would “rather have young people who are engaged in the argument and trying to think through how they can be part of our democratic process than people who are sitting on the sidelines not paying attention at all.” On the other hand, President Trump responded to Kaepernick’s protest by suggesting that “the NFL should have suspended him for one game and he would have never done it again.”
One would think that in the land of the free citizens would be supported when exercising their freedom of speech, especially by the sitting president, however, that is not the case. Not only has Trump spoken against national anthem protests, but prior protests have also caused fan backlash and might impact television ratings negatively.
The fact of the matter is simple, the protests are meant to be provocative and cause some unrest, and in that objective they have succeeded. However, it seems that the conversation has shifted from discussing the oppression of people of color to discussing the president’s anti-protests tweets. As American citizens, individuals in this country should have the right to speak out against injustices of varying degrees without repercussions; if people of color cannot protest against the oppression of their own people, and peacefully at that, thEn what can they protest. This is not about disrespecting the flag, or veterans, or even President Trump; it’s about civil rights.