Athletes choosing to kneel during the national anthem is currently a controversial topic in the US.
The this past weekend, 27 players from the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens opted to take a knee during the singing of the US national anthem before a game at Wembley Stadium in London. This was the most players ever to kneel during the national anthem in a single NFL game ever. The defiant stance has become a sign of protest against racial inequality within the US, and more recently, against President Trump’s lacklustre response to the Charlottesville white-nationalist rally last month, and the heated aftermath that followed. The defiant stance first made national news following a preseason game in 2016, when Colin Kaepernick sat down (as opposed to the tradition of standing), during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. His reasoning was divisive, but simple:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder”
Eventually, Kaepernick conversed with former NFL player and US military veteran, Nate Boyer, and they both agreed that kneeling would be a much more respectful way to protest, whilst still showing respect for those who have fought in the US military. But the Jaguars and the Ravens weren’t the only NFL teams to show solidarity against President Trump this week. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins and more all protested in one way or another – with the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans even choosing to remain their locker rooms during the playing of the national anthem. And yet, what’s even more inflammatory is President Trump’s reaction to the silent protests. Instead of addressing the issues of racial injustice, Trump has hit out at the NFL, stating that fans should “refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country”, and that any players who take a knee should be fired or suspended. But President Trump isn’t the only fan tuning in every week to witness the protests. Young children are incredibly impressionable, and one six-year-old in particular decided to demonstrate a protest of his own during the pledge of allegiance at his elementary school. As reported on ABC Action News, a six-year-old boy in Pasco County knelt down during a reading of the pledge of allegiance – an action that his teacher found disrespectful of the country, and disrespectful of the flag.
The teacher send a text message to the boy’s mother, informing her, “I knew where he had seen it. But I did tell him that in the classroom, we are learning what it means to be a good citizen”. The teacher then told the child to “stand up and stop it”, something that the boy’s mother does not believe is her “right”. The boy’s mother said that she did not tell her son to take a knee, but also does not want her son to be silenced. She is now asking the school to be more open-minded, as she believes the issue is “much bigger” than her son. Linda Cobbe of Pasco County schools stated that they follow state law, and that the only way a student can be exempted from reciting the pledge of allegiance is with a written request from the parents, and even then, “they must stand”. Cobbe also agreed that a more beneficial approach would have been to pull the boy to the side of the class and discuss the matter, instead of punishing him in front of the other students.
But the mother believes that this shouldn’t just be about her son: “The bigger issue is cultural. They have demonstrated to me, through multiple incidents, that they don’t take inclusion and diversity serious”. Both the boy’s mom and the school are now hoping that the incident will be something everyone can learn from, as the school “does not want to infringe on anyone’s rights”.
What do you think? Should the boy and his mother be punished? Was it simply just a child copying something his favorite football team did one TV, or was he fighting for his right to be heard and respected in the community? One thing is for sure, the actions of the NFL are being seen and heard across the nation by everyone.
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