Kneeling is a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment

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Many of the Buffalo Bills players kneel on the sidelines for the national anthem against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Atlanta, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Editorial Board

A lot of buzz on social media and news stations the past few weeks over a line of protests by NFL players has entered the public eye. This started with Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem at football games late last year. Now, you can read everyone’s opinion about the situation by searching “#TakeAKnee” on every major social media platform.

The NFL quarterback claimed that he was protesting against an unjust system. After his first protest on live TV, the press asked Kaepernick why he chose to kneel for the anthem. He responded with, “People don’t realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust. People aren’t being held accountable for. And that’s something that needs to change.”

Kaepernick received tons of backlash from this last year including fans burning his jersey, fans destroying season passes and tickets to his games and huge amounts of uproar on social media. People were– and still are– absolutely furious that this man refused to stand for the national anthem.

Protests continued into this year and on Sept. 24, President Trump used his Twitter account to condemn these players by saying, “Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy!”

This sparked a response from the players of the NFL. Since that comment, many more NFL players have started to kneel. Players on the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions are taking a knee in spite of the president’s comment.

This has caused even more backlash toward the players mostly from conservative demographics. People are furious because they believe these players are disrespecting our country and the people that have fought for it.

But when did it become mandatory to stand for the national anthem? These players are not breaking any rules. The NFL has no mandates against kneeling. The NFL game operation manual clearly states that players must be on the sidelines for the anthem but it says specifically that they “should” stand at attention.

This implies that it is optional in stark contrast to its language regarding where they “must” be when the anthem is playing. So if they aren’t breaking any rules, then why do so many people care?

Trump states that they are disrespecting our country and the people that have fought for it, but are they? If anything, it is patriotic to stand up, or kneel in this case, against injustice in one’s country. If anything, wanting one’s country to be better and fighting for that vision is one of the most patriotic things anyone can do.

Those soldiers that people are claiming that they are disrespecting fought for our right to sit or stand. They fought for freedom and the Constitution, which clearly states that we have the right to peacefully protest and practice free speech. So, this choice honors those who have died for our freedom to exercise the very right that they were fighting for.

These players are not protesting soldiers anyway. They are protesting the unfair treatment of minorities in our country. Rosa Parks wasn’t protesting the transportation system when she decided to sit in the front of a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama all those years ago; she was protesting segregation. So why is this any different?

Protesting in the past has lead to social change not only in America but around the world, so why do people including our president feel the need to oppose it and cast a negative light upon it?

These players are kneeling with a goal in mind. They want to make change and they are using one of the biggest platforms in America to do so. Kaepernick himself even said when starting this movement that, “When this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”

So, why not aid in fixing this country’s socio-economic issues instead of attacking these players who only want what is best for our nation?

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