Kaepernick copycats fuel controversy

Sports | Athletes’ protests ignite debate over free speech and respect
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 9/15/16, 11:35 am

More athletes this week protested the national anthem, kneeling or raising a fist during the “Star Spangled Banner” to bring attention to racial injustice.

The controversial trend started in late August when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the anthem before the team’s preseason games. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

The trend caught on quickly. Last Friday, high school football players in at least eight states, including almost an entire team in Norfolk, Va., knelt during the anthem. They were joined by: volleyball players at West Virginia State University; football players at University of Tulsa and Indiana State University; professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe; and professional football players for the Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, and Los Angeles Rams.

While most coaches, team owners, college presidents, and high school superintendents are defending their players’ Constitutional right to free expression, a few are pushing back. U.S. national hockey coach John Tortorella told ESPN in advance of the World Cup of Hockey, “If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game.”

Last week, University of Texas Chancellor Bill McRaven, a retired admiral, sent a memo to all presidents and athletic directors at the eight UT System universities asking them to “encourage your coaching staff and your players to stand up straight when the national anthem” is played, according to The Texas Tribune.

“While no one should be compelled to stand, they should recognize that by sitting in protest to the flag they are disrespecting everyone who sacrificed to make this country what it is today—as imperfect as it might be,” McRaven wrote.

President Barack Obama defended Kaepernick’s action: “He’s following his constitutional right to make a statement.” Obama acknowledged the flag and anthem hold meaning for men and women in uniform and “that is a tough thing for them to get past to then hear what his deeper concerns are,” but added, “I don’t doubt his sincerity based on what I’ve heard. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump disagreed: “I think it’s a lack of respect for our country. I think it’s a lack of appreciation for our country and it’s a very sad thing. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, actually,” Trump said during a call to Fox and Friends. He suggested Kaepernick and others protesting “should try another country, see if they like it better.”

Kaepernick said he would not stop his protest until the “flag represents what it’s supposed to represent.”

Kiley Crossland

Kiley reports on marriage, family, and sexuality for WORLD Digital. Follow Kiley on Twitter @KileyCrossland.

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  • Nate T
    Posted: Thu, 09/15/2016 12:32 pm

    In the end, has this means of making a statement-by Kaepernick and others- furthered the intented cause in any way? The debate has shifted entirely to whether the players have a right to this form of speach or whether they should given how their actions may be disrespectful to many who have sacrificed a great deal for our liberties. Meanwhile, the cause which they initially hoped to bring light to has been put on the back burner. By seeking to make their point through what many see as a disrespectful means, they alianate many rational compassionate people who do hope for racial reconcialition (much like the Black Lives Matter movement). In our polarized social media culture, everyone feels the need to voice their opinion and take a side, typically before becoming informed themselves. So often, this results in real discussions and solutions ignored, only for the sake of self-actualization and being heard.

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Thu, 09/15/2016 01:49 pm

    Kaepernick now needs to keep repeating exactly what he needs to see before he grants that the "flag represents what it's supposed to represent."  That would be a good way to steer the conversation in the right direction.  Parents and coaches of players in their care need to ask the players why they are doing what they are doing and challenge their sincerity if they cannot give a coherent answer.  What is "there," and how do we get from here to there?

  • JE
    Posted: Thu, 09/15/2016 02:05 pm

    Why give the traitors the last word in your article? Disappointing to say the least with an expectation of better from "World!"

  • Fuzzyface
    Posted: Thu, 09/15/2016 02:06 pm

    Is anyone else getting tired of sports players and organizations?  Maybe we should ignore them all and stop watching games.

  • Minivan Man's picture
    Minivan Man
    Posted: Thu, 09/15/2016 03:48 pm

    Exactly.  I'm all for friendly sports and exercise, but can anyone honestly say our culture is not worshipping football players (and other sports athletes)?  These athletes have no business wielding the fame, power and money they have.  They prove over and over that they will misuse it, and we have only ourselves to blame.  The entertainment industry is no different.  

    I'd like to see Barnabus Piper's thoughts on this, because while there are some godly athletes who inspire others, it is quite clear to me that sports have become too much an obsession (for the last 100 years?).  If you think its just harmeless sports fans having fun, just watch how the NCAA will force N. Carolina to bow the knee to the sex god, or lose its idol (basketball games).  

  • BenArtM80
    Posted: Thu, 09/15/2016 10:14 pm

    for once, I can stand behind what the Don said

  • JerryM
    Posted: Fri, 09/16/2016 05:14 am

    On this, I also agree with Mr. Trump.  America is not the problem here.  With this issue we should protest the false promises of liberal progressivism (largely embodied in the Democratic Party) and how they have ravaged the black community.  Is not the real danger here the stoking of more of a false sense of entitlement, which is already part of the problem?

  • TK
    Posted: Fri, 09/30/2016 06:21 pm

    Kaepernick just knelt for attention because he wasn't doing so well in his football career

  • RW
    Posted: Sat, 10/15/2016 01:49 pm

    This behavior is evidence of the undoing of our country.  If these people were required to serve their country in military service defending our values, including freedom of speech, this would be unthinkable. Elimination of the draft has left the citizenry without the personal perspective of the uniqueness of our country in a godless world. Without shared sacrifice we have become a loose federation of disparate ethnic, racial, and religious groups rather than the melting pot of the early 20th century.