In 2003 while in London for a concert, the lead vocalist of “The Dixie Chicks,” said that she was embarrassed to be from the same state as then-president George W. Bush. As a result, they lost their fan base, their recording contract, and their career came to a screeching halt. The Dixie Chicks were simply exercising their first amendment rights. However, no one is obligated to continue listening to their music or support them if they do not agree with their political beliefs. 14 years later, the NFL is facing a similar issue: Let their players kneel during the anthem and continue to lose money as ratings fall, or make it mandatory for the players to stand during the National Anthem and lose the support of their players. The question here is not whether it is legal or if the players have the “right” to kneel. It is perfectly legal, and the players are protected by the first amendment freedom of speech and expression. The real question is: is it disrespectful to the Country, the flag, and the United States military to kneel during the national anthem?
The kneeling started during the 2016-2017 NFL season when the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, chose to kneel during the national anthem, saying later that he did not want to support the song of a country that oppresses minorities. Since then, other players and even coaches have joined the “take a knee” movement in protest of racial inequality in America. This has created a divide in not only the National Football League but in the entire country. The outspoken owner of the Dallas Cowboys was quoted saying, “You will stand during the National anthem with your hand over your heart or you will no longer be a member of the Dallas Cowboys.” The Houston Texans owner, Bob McNair said: “We can’t let the inmates run the prison” which caused a further divide between players and the NFL.
Here are the facts: NFL ticket sales have dropped nearly 18% since the start of the protests. The NFL’s ratings have been declining since week three of the 2016 NFL season (the first week that Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the anthem). According to a poll on Forbes.com, nearly 32 percent of fans said that they are less likely to watch NFL football games as a direct result of the protests. Bars, restaurants, and other public establishments have begun boycotting NFL games as a result of the protests.
Now, let’s see what Concordia thinks. When a recent survey asked 50 Concordia students: “Are the NFL players disrespecting the Country by kneeling during the National Anthem?” 54% of the students said no while the other 46% said yes. Some students and faculty members spoke up on how they felt about the issue.
“They have their freedom to stand or kneel, and I don’t see it as disrespectful, these players are just raising awareness of issues that are important to them.” -Cory Smith
“I’m not an American but I still stand with my hand over my heart during the anthem because that is how I show respect for this country.” -Faculty Member
“It’s asinine that people are upset about other people kneeling. When people kneel at a sporting event, it means someone is injured. I took athletes and coaching staff of sports teams kneeling as a representation of a broken country.” -Bailey Bomgaars
“It’s ruining football. When I watch the games, I don’t want to have to deal with politics. It’s not the place or time to mix in all these issues. Raise awareness somewhere else.” -Nacole Miller
Since starting the protests last season, Colin Kaepernick has not been signed to an NFL team and has filed a lawsuit against the league, claiming collusion against him. Several owners were ordered to hand over their cell phones for investigation. The NFL has done little to address the protests so far outside of releasing a statement last season saying that the players are not required to stand for the anthem but are “encouraged” to. Only time will tell if the NFL takes action on the anthem protests.
Written by Reid Cormier