Protests against National Anthem Spreading

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October 5, 2016

The sporadic protests of athletes against the national anthem are growing in number throughout America, not only in professional sports but also now in the amateur ranks.

The man who started it all most recently, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, is still taking his stance, by kneeling (rather than standing at attention) during the playing of “The Star-spangled Banner” before football games. Kaepernick began his protest on August 26, by remaining seated while the national anthem was played; the following week, he knelt during the anthem. He has since been joined by two teammates also kneeling.

Nearly two dozen other National Football League players have joined in the national anthem protest in recent weeks, either by kneeling during the playing of the anthem or by raising a fist in the air (echoing the 1968 Olympics protest by American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos).

One player for the Indianapolis Colts, defensive back Antonio Cromartie, knelt during the playing of “The Star-spangled Banner” before a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London’s Wembley Stadium; Cromartie then stood for the playing of the United Kingdom’s national anthem, “God Save the Queen.” Cromartie continued his protest back on American soil, by both kneeling during the anthem and raising his fist in the air.

Professional athletes in other sports have joined in the protest. Players for the WNBA’s New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury have knelt through the playing of the national anthem before playoff games. And in the NBA, David West of the Golden State Warriors said that he had been silently protesting during the playing of the anthem for several years, by standing behind, and so out of line with, his teammates.

As well, Megan Rapinoe, of the professional soccer team the Seattle Reign, dropped to one knee during the playing of the national anthem at one of her matches; in response, the owner of Rapine’s opponent decreed that the national anthem be played while the players were still in the locker room, eliminating any chance of a during-the-anthem protest by Rapinoe or any other player.

It’s not just the professional ranks, either. Some high school and college football players across the country are now kneeling during “The Star-spangled Banner.”

Band members and cheerleaders have joined the protest at other schools around the country. Recently, 19 members of the East Carolina University marching band knelt or refused to play during the national anthem before an ECU game; the crowd booed the band loudly at halftime. The following week, the local television network announced that it would refuse to televise ECU’s game.

Even younger players have become involved. A group of 11- and 12-year-old players in Beaumont, Texas, joined the protest recently.

The protest has extended into the crowd as well. A few dozen University of Alabama students remained seated during the performance of the national anthem before the school’s homecoming game recently.

Athletes who are protesting stress that getting lost in the debate over whether they are justified in their acts of protest is the reason for the protest: to speak out against racial violence. Members of the WNBA’s Liberty wore black T-shirts during warm-ups a few months ago, violating league rules, to call attention to well publicized shootings of African-Americans by police. Kaepernick has been clear that his motivation is to call attention to what he sees as a serious problem that is growing worse by the year.

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