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Op-Ed: Kneeling for the Anthem: Athletes and Coaches Speak about Whether They Find It Patriotic or Problematic?

Kris McQueen, Perspective Editor/ Coffeehouse Promoter

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In a recent article by News4Jax, Trinity Christian Academy was shown to require its students to sign a contract that says if an athlete kneels during the pre-game anthem, that player will be taken off the field and may potentially be benched for the rest of the season.

Mr. Hodges, Head of Upper School, confirmed in an email that our school has not made a student policy about players kneeling but that doesn’t mean our athletes aren’t discussing the issue.

“Obviously black lives and black people are oppressed in this country and it’s a really big problem,” said Varsity football player Isaiah Morris (‘18). “However, I feel like the flag has to deal with the troops and the oppression, and the protests have to deal with police brutality and mistreatment.”

Though Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, stated that his kneeling was in protest to the injustice towards people of color in America, Morris’s comments echo that many have taken kneeling as a direct offense to military personnel and the country entirely. Others have decided that there is nothing wrong with the players kneeling, such as Navy veteran Jim Wright, who on Facebook, stated that “To you the National Anthem means one thing, to Kaepernick it means something else. We are all shaped and defined by our experiences and we see the world through our own eyes. That’s freedom. That’s liberty. The right to believe differently. The right to protest as you will.” Wright is not alone in stating that respect means something different to everyone.

According to The New York Times, Howard University has a long standing tradition of playing the song “Lift Every Voice,” which is said to be the unofficial national anthem of African-Americans. They play Jacksonville native James Weldon Johnson’s song before the United States anthem. The Howard cheerleaders, recently have joined the football players in the act of protest and raised their arms in the Black Power salute during the African-American anthem before kneeling during the “Star-Spangled Banner,” an act they have been doing since 2016.

Bolles cheerleaders have opinions about the meaning behind kneeling as well. Varsity Cheerleader Nia Guine-Herndon (‘18) said, “There was nothing wrong with Colin kneeling. He was voicing his opinion on how he felt about Trump’s comments in a respectful way. I don’t think he was intentionally trying to ‘disrespect America’ or ‘disrespect the troops’.”

As the protests continued, people have began turning off the television and some, including the Vice President of the United States, have left games due to the protests. But the overall effect of protesting may not be felt by the NFL. Varsity player, Mason Yost (‘18), said, “It’s not going to stop the NFL from making money since the whole thing is a monopoly.”

Some high school athletes question the effectiveness of kneeling on the high school playing field. “NFL players have a platform and they get paid to play, high school athletes don’t,” said Trinity student, football, and baseball player Evan McGhee (‘18).

Yost does not oppose protests in general, just the act of kneeling. “I do think they should protest in a different way. They’ve started locking arms. That could be a better way and they should continue doing that.” Yost is not the first to think that the protests could have been done a different way. It has been shown in many public forums that other American citizens also think that it would be better if players did not voice their political opinions in such a public way. Some football fans say that this controversy has ruined football Sunday.

However, head Bolles football coach, Wayne Belger, acknowledged the fact that the protests start and spread conversation about the very controversial topic of race relations in the United States. “I’m not sure that sports is the way to do it and I’m not sure what is really being accomplished other than getting people talking about it,” said Belger. “Hopefully, that will get people to solve some of the problems.”

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Op-Ed: Kneeling for the Anthem: Athletes and Coaches Speak about Whether They Find It Patriotic or Problematic?