Protesting the Anthem: Free speech or disrespect?

In the past week, conflicts arose between President Trump and the NFL players from several different football who teams knelt during the national anthem. During this third week of protests, players from teams such as the Baltimore Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers and even the Detroit Lions linked arms and knelt for the national anthem. These incidents fol- lowed a tweet from President Trump on Saturday that read: “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL… he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem.”

The situation attracted the media’s attention, and continuously beckons more and more players to abandon their national pride.

While everyone holds the right to protest for what they believe in, refusing to praise our country symbolizes pure disrespect for America, selfishly asking more from a country that gives us everything.

America gives us our lifestyle, our safety, our freedom. America listens to the voices of its people. America continuously reforms to create a better country. America works to keep its citizens happy, yet some remain dissatisfied.

If America is so awful that it provides reason to protest, what country would give us a better life? When I hear news of these football players kneeling for the anthem, I wonder if they realize what life outside of America consists of. As Mike Huckabee stated on Sunday morning, “I wish that some of these players who get on one knee… would get on both knees and thank God they live in the United States.”

I wonder if these players realize that their multi-million dollar net worth comes from the American people religiously following football, a sport only popular in the U.S., and that what classifies as problems here hardly compare to those of third world countries. I wonder if anyone realizes that if we attempted to protest in places like Cuba, China or anywhere in the Middle East, we risk arrest or death.

In one of my favorite journalistic pieces of all time, written during the 2016 football season when Colin Kaepernick sparked national protests, Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom states that the fact that we have the right to sit down for the national anthem is the exact reason that we shouldn’t. We possess the freedom to protest and make a change in the world, but possibilities to do so extend beyond criticizing the country that wants to help.

If you feel so strongly about an issue that you consider it a national disgrace, do something about it. Sitting for the national anthem serves as only symbolic speech; using your words makes a greater impact. The potential to make a change accompanies American citizenship: take advantage of it. In the case of NFL players, rather than disrespecting the American flag to protest, they should use a chunk of the millions of dollars that America blesses them with to help others who want to champion their cause. Issues with the president should not cause players to desecrate the entire country on the field.

Whether we believe it or not, America works for us, not against us. America allows us to speak our minds freely, but some of us fail to realize just how much fortune our nation brings us. Why continuously condemn the country for its mistakes rather than help to fix them?

Our words impact nothing if we use them in a negative way to ignite controversy and anger instead of inspiring a change. We have every right to protest, but we must learn the proper way, and the right way to protest does not involve dishonoring our country.

Morgan Brown ('21) is the Production Manager at the Anchor, a position that includes the roles of copy chief, head of the Creativity Team, and web editor.

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