To Stand or Not to Stand: Thoughts on National Anthem Kneeling

For better or worse, one of the most discussed and debated topics across the country this past week has been the recent controversy over whether athletes should be taking a knee during the national anthem. The arguments over kneeling were ignited in 2016, when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to protest racism and police brutality by sitting during the anthem, later changing his strategy and taking a knee instead.


Players who take a knee are protesting racism toward colored people in the United States. SB Nation reports that Eric Reid, who protested alongside Kaepernick, wrote in The New York Times “We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.” 


On Friday, September 22, during a speech in Huntsville, Alabama, President Donald Trump criticized NFL players who kneel during the national anthem, saying those players should be released from the team. The President stated that refusing to stand for the anthem is “a total disrespect of our heritage.” The President acknowledged that all Americans have the freedom to make this choice, but maintained “It’s still totally disrespectful.”


Over the following days, President Trump posted a series of tweets on the issue. A line from one tweet read, “Courageous Patriots have fought and died for our great American Flag — we MUST honor and respect it!”

Players kneel during the national anthem. Image found on CBSNews.

In response, many players kneeled or sat during the national anthem before last Sunday’s football games and some teams didn’t even come outside for the anthem, including the Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, and Pittsburgh Steelers teams. By not appearing for the anthem, the teams broke a league rule. However, the NFL says they will not be punished.


I believe that refusing to stand for the national anthem is very disrespectful. It is fine to peacefully protest injustices that we see going on, however, this is not the right vehicle by which to do so. We need to remember what our country’s anthem and our flag symbolizes. It is a very deep and hallowed symbol.  

Sept 11 Photo Package
After 9/11, an American flag was placed over the rubble of the World Trade Centers. Image found on The Blade.

It stands for all those men and women– of all races– who sacrificed– and still sacrifice– in so many different ways to achieve the dream of making this country great and keeping their families safe and free.


Should we stand?


Many gave up their homes, possessions, and families in foreign countries to move here for a better life. Many gave up their reputation and security to demand freedom from oppression. Many slaves and servants gave up their present happiness and lives to ensure that their children would not be harmed, holding on to the dream of freedom. Many people gave up their jobs, safety, and some their lives, protesting injustice during the struggle for civil rights. Many gave up their limbs and mental stability in wars at home and all over the world. And many members of our military, as well as civilians, gave up their lives fighting for a cause they believed was worth dying for.


Should we stand?


That cause was freedom from British corruption in colonial times. That cause was journeying into the unknown for a better life when the pioneers traveled out west. That cause was the fight for the basic freedom of every human being during the Civil War. That cause was a fight for world civilization in two world wars and the wars to follow. That cause was civil rights. That cause was unity and hope after 9/11. And that cause is for everything else that is right and just. The United States’ cause is for freedom, unity, and love.


Should we stand?


Members of the police force and firefighters, everyday heros, put their lives on the line every day to keep our neighborhoods safe. Our members of the military devote their time to defending this country and helping those in harm’s way no matter the cost, even if it is their own life.


Should we stand?


To not stand for the national anthem is to dishonor those who believed and continue to believe in this country and it’s people, those who learn from the past and advance forward with hope, and all those who sacrifice. To not even come outside is shameful.

American Flag displayed before a football game. Image found on SOFREPNews.

The United States is a land of freedom of speech and assembly, so those who see injustice going on have every right to protest. However, there so many other ways by which to peacefully do so. Some ideas include players linking arms as a sign of unity, an action that the president supported in a tweet, remarking that linking arms is “Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country.”


Other ways that NFL players, other influential athletes, or anyone else can make their voice heard about racial injustice is to discuss the issue in interviews, write respectful but moving posts on social media, just write about it in general, peacefully march together, donating, marching for, or hosting an event that supports a charity they believe will assist those who are suffering, praying about it, writing to or calling officials, using peaceful, respectful rhetoric and clearly outlining the problem using specific, personal examples if possible. The kind of leadership needed to make this happen comes from coaches, owners, and other prominent sports officials. Coaches and owners must promote respect for American sacrifices and encourage their players to find other means by which to peacefully protest.


I have always been a big football fan and I love watching games (go Colts!), and I still love the NFL. I believe that sports is something that brings us together. Just look at the 2001 World Series baseball game after 9/11 when President George W. Bush threw the first pitch and everyone chanted “USA” afterward. It was a truly moving moment.


I believe that coaches and players need to be reminded why they are standing on an American football field. They need to remember it is because of all the sacrifices of our ancestors, many who gave their lives, so we can have that right and opportunity. By standing for the anthem and flag, we honor them. Perhaps sometime the NFL will release a statement outlining something similar to this. In the meantime, love is powerful, and change must come from within hearts to occur.


What are your thoughts on this topic? Should players be standing? Let us know what you think in the comments below or click the “Leave a comment” button at the top left of the post, under the author’s image.

Author: Elodie R. Bouwens

I am currently in my second year at Black Hawk College. I'm a 2016 graduate of Geneseo High School. Besides writing, I love to walk long distance (goal is 20+ miles), bake, watch The Walking Dead, and read. I absolutely love to write, and I'm excited to write for the Chieftain. If you have any ideas for a topic or story, feel free to contact me at