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National Anthem Protests

Michael Daly '18, Staff Writer

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The NFL has at various times been embroiled in controversy since the inception of the league in 1920. However, there has not been a firestorm in recent years such as that currently ongoing with the National Anthem.

Historically, players have only been mandated to be on the field during the National Anthem since 2009 for 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM Sunday games. Athletes in “Primetime” game slots were not required to come out onto the field until 2009, as well. This was seemingly due to the problems that television networks had for many years with commercial rights and responsibilities before games started. Since, the NFL has instituted a rule stating that “The National Anthem must be played prior to the kickoff of every game.” The rule continues in that all players should be “standing at a position of attention for the Anthem and face the flag.” More, it also asks for each team to make sure the respective flags used for opening ceremonies are in “presentable condition.”

Last season, fans saw former NFC Champion Colin Kaepernick take a knee during the Anthem which sparked debates in both political and athletic fora. Since the protests of last season, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers and has not (yet) been added by any of the other 31 teams; now, he is exploring his legal options claiming collusion among team owners. According to Kaepernick, his protest was intended to show both his displeasure with police brutality and for the oppression of minorities in America. It is apparent that a sizable portion of Kaepernick’s colleagues are in support of his First Amendment right. As with most issues, there are many different reads for the complicated situation, with some more aggressively approached than others. Many pundits and fans alike argue that members of the military would not appreciate kneeling for the National Anthem, yet, in that regard, these same soldiers would recognize that they fight for the liberties of Americans to take a stand through their protected freedoms of expression. Interestingly enough, military appreciation is extremely prevalent and pervasive throughout the NFL with its website store already stockpiled with “Salute To Service” gear nearly a month before the players will have camouflage intentionally included in their uniforms. 

As the 2017 season continues into the middle of October, sideline protests have since lost front page coverage, yet the debate still rages. As of now, it is unknown whether Colin Kaepernick will ever play again in the NFL, but it is safe to say that he has been a catalyst of change, one way or another, in the NFL. There is no denying that the voices of players have reverberated around the world and garnered significant attention. 

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National Anthem Protests