Anthem protests not likely to go away

Thursday, January 5, 2017

NFL player Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the National Anthem this season and not standing at attention, as is the routine. Kaepernick’s actions were controversial to say the least and they created a wave of support, as well as backlash.

Kaepernick was outraged at the oppression of minorities around the country and this act of protest was in response. More specifically, the protest was a reaction to the shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota by a white police officer. This instance was the last of many acts of police brutality before Kaepernick knelt.

The flag stands for freedom. Yes, Kaepernick has the freedom to kneel or sit for the National Anthem, it is his choice. Instead of speaking out about it or inciting change; he decided to kneel down during the United States of America’s National Anthem. By protesting in this way, he upset many people who felt he would have been better served to get his message across in another way.

He never spoke out about it except in an interview. He never spoke publicly and did not even vote in the election, but the spotlight was on him again. He did not make a change, as this is still going on in the world today. Nothing has been done, but maybe, just maybe, something will be done.

Kaepernick’s act did not change anything, but it did put him in the spotlight once again and if something is going to change, he needed to be.

Being a sports nut, especially a high school basketball nut, I attend many sporting events every year. From professional, to college, all the way to my favorite, high school basketball. Winter is my favorite time of the year as college basketball is getting fired up and high school basketball tournaments are taking place. I have seen athletes on TV kneel in response to Kaepernick kneeling but I always dismissed it as wanting to be in the spotlight. I never knew until recently how impactful Kaepernick’s kneeling was.

I may not have agreed with how he decided to go about trying to incite a change but I will say, it was damn impactful.

I was at a high school basketball game on a Friday night a few weeks back and at the end of the junior varsity game, two black males sat down right behind me. I was at the media table, and I tend to take up a bit of space with my backpack, laptop, iPad, etc., so I moved over so they would have some leg room.

Then came the National Anthem.

It started and I realized my phone ringer was still on, so out of habit, I reached down and clicked the switch on the side to turn it off. Out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the men sitting down, hat on, looking at his phone.

I glanced around the rest of the gym and noticed no one else was sitting, besides the veteran in the wheelchair on the gym floor. The man behind me never looked up at the flag and continued doing what he was doing.

When the anthem was over, he and his friend continued on with their conversation like nothing had happened. I was sitting there aghast, yet at the same time happy that I had finally experienced seeing someone sit for the anthem.

For the first half of the game I kept thinking about that man and why he sat for the National Anthem as everyone else around us stood.

At halftime I leaned back and asked.

“Sir, I saw that you did not stand for the National Anthem. May I ask why not?”

He replies, “My father died for this country so it is my right to sit. Colin Kaepernick kneeled and started a revolution, now people all over the country are sitting or kneeling to raise awareness for police brutality on African Americans.”

I thanked him for answering, because he certainly did not need to and went on with the game. It was a good game, but nothing was more memorable than that encounter.

While I don’t agree with how Kaepernick did it since my grandpa was in the Navy, and you need to pay respects, I wholeheartedly think that it spurred a change throughout America. Sitting or kneeling during the National Anthem will become the new mode of silent protest and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

Everyone knows why someone is not standing up for the anthem and that automatically raises awareness. The trend Kaepernick started is only just beginning.

So, if you see me at a high school basketball game this winter, I will most likely be in a PrepHoops jacket, stop and say hi, tell me about your family but most importantly, take a peek at me during the National Anthem.