NFL Protests: Are They Disrespectful?

Caveat: The following articles are strictly the opinions of the writers who created them, and not a reflection of Grace College’s ideology. If you have thoughts on this issue that you would like to be discussed, please email them to soundingboard@grace.edu.

Protests are Well-Intentioned, but Disrespectful.

by Katelyn Smith

Humans are, at their core, emotional beings. They take pride in certain things, and feel threatened when their source of pride is threatened. Many people would argue that football is an American tradition. The picture of a family huddled around a television or in a stadium wearing matching colors, eating disgustingly wonderful food, and yelling as if the players will take their advice is woven into our culture. We see this picture played out on television and in movies, and many see it played out in their own homes. Most of the characters that fit into this persona also have some other loves—the American flag being one of them.

However, recently the actions of many football players have been causing controversy. The issue is not whether their motives for kneeling are pure, but the fact that they are kneeling at all. While players claim that their act of kneeling is not disrespectful, other people perceive it as such.

I was in St. Louis on a mission’s trip during the aftermath of Ferguson. I remember speaking with people of color that had been unfairly targeted by police. I have no doubt that it happens. However, I argue that kneeling in front of the flag is not the best way to protest that fact. It is only causing more division and more hatred.

My conservative town sees these actions only as a sign of disrespect to the people that have fought to serve our country. I know by seeing the chaotic mess that is social media that many others believe the same. I also struggle not to see this as a sign of disrespect. I currently have two cousins serving our country. My father-in-law is a retired police officer, and I was raised to bleed red, white and blue. I am not questioning the motives of protesters who kneel for the flag—I am merely questioning the method.

If we want to be a unified nation, then why are our actions so divisive? The media has a way of extracting the meaning they want to show from a situation and discarding the rest. The drama surrounding this is caused partially because the media knows that it is divisive, and because of that fact it will sell. Drama sells.

Taking a knee during the national anthem is not an effective way to protest. It has gained media attention, but at what cost? Players have a right to kneel; that is their freedom of speech at work. However, they need to realize that a house divided against itself will not stand. If conservatives choose to say that “all lives matter,” then they need to start acting like it. However, other protesters need to understand that taking actions which others see as disrespectful will not gain them any ground.


Kneeling Does Not Equate Disrespect

by Caleb Harlow

The recent actions of NFL players during the national anthem have generated a lot of controversy. Players are choosing to kneel during the performance of the national anthem to protest the treatment of black men by police officers, and many people are upset at the way these men are choosing to protest. Many claim that kneeling during the anthem shows “disrespect for the flag.” However, kneeling for the anthem is not a form of disrespect- in fact, kneeling shows a great form of humility towards the anthem while still drawing attention for a purpose or cause.

Kneeling is not disrespectful. However, here’s a brief list of things that are Constitutionally disrespectful towards the flag that regularly occur at NFL games and in homes around the country, according to the official US Flag code: carrying the flag horizontally (§176.c), use of the flag as an athletic uniform (§176.j) or use of the flag for advertising (§176.i)- I’m looking at you, Budweiser .

The players aren’t trying to be disrespectful to the country, the flag, or veterans. These players are trying to raise awareness of a justice system that unfairly targets people of color. They want to be treated fairly by the system in which they live. However, many people today are too focused on the actions of the players to consider what the players are protesting for. They are too consumed by a blinding patriotism towards their nations that they are able to see the flaws that these men are trying to highlight. It is their love for this nation that drives them to protest- they love the US, but they recognize its flaws and want it to improve. They love this nation and want to continue to live here and raise their children here- they want this country to be their country. Feeling targeted as an “other” group harms their own sense of patriotism, the same sense of patriotism that leads people to be enraged when they before the anthem.

If you’re frustrated at those who kneel before the anthem, ask yourself why. Why are these men placing themselves directly in the path of endless criticism, boycotting and counter-protests? It is because they care about seeking justice for themselves and for those around them, like God commands us to do.

Micah 6:8 tells us to “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” These men are doing just that- seeking justice for themselves, for their families, for their friends, and for their communities. Their methods may be a little unconventional, but do we not follow a God who came to this earth and broke every convention of the society around Him? Sometimes, in order to stand up for what’s right, we have to break free from what is normal.