August 22, 2019 | 89° F

EDITORIAL: Athletes should be able to practice rights

Citizens of the U.S have freedom to express their concerns


Picture your favorite sports team coming out onto the field to play. As the players line up across the field and the "Star-Spangled Banner” hums over the loudspeaker, you see a player quietly take a knee. If you feel infuriated and disrespected, take a step back and consider the reason behind what you feel.

Before Colin Kaepernick shocked the nation as he took a knee during the national anthem in 2016, there was no real protocol of what a team should do while the song plays, especially in college sports. As it happens, former Rutgers football team head coach Kyle Flood would keep his players in the locker room as the national anthem played, not for any pointed political reason, but just as a preference. When Chris Ash took over, the tradition changed to stepping out onto the field and standing for the song. But, after recent events, Ash and his team imitated Flood’s methods and remained inside the locker room. Ash stated, “We're a program that we do respect everybody’s beliefs and opinions and we are a team. And we want to act like a team.” And while the reactions to Ash’s voice of support to those students who may wish to take a knee as well have not yet been gauged, the reactions that famous athletes are receiving from the rest of the nation gives of indication of how people will probably feel.

People are outraged at people like Kaepernick, Terrell Suggs and Mike Evans for kneeling down as the national anthem plays. Why? Those that are upset with these actions believe that taking a knee during the national anthem is a blatant act of disrespect against the veterans who fought and died for the flag, and a crime against the nation that they should be grateful to live in. 

Those in opposition feel that this is not the case. Those who participate in "taking a knee" have expressed that their actions are not a protest of the flag and American values, but rather a peaceful demonstration against acts of police brutality. In relation to the argument about veterans, some believe that the "take a knee" protest does not invalidate the sacrifices veterans have made for the country. Rather, they believe that these veterans fought to protect their First Amendment rights and the very right to protest.

The divide stems from misunderstanding. What one thing may represent for one person, may represent something entirely different for someone else. In order for a resolution to be met, there needs to be a more transparent and open conversation between the sides, one that is not conducted over social media.

But Ash does a good job of providing a space where students who feel either way can express their values, without fear of condemnation from the rest of the team. Although the debate surrounding taking a knee has not yet been brought to college football, Ash's lesson here is an important one. People have different values, and those who may feel wronged or feel strongly about issues within the country should have the right to voice their concerns in a peaceful manner. This is exactly what the First Amendment has allowed them to do. Denying people from exercising their rights creates an atmosphere that demonstrates that their feelings are not valid. 

All Americans should feel as though they are protected by their government and its laws. The United States has always prided itself on being a nation of the people, by the people, for the people. Encouraging its citizens to be politically active is the only way this can truly be achieved.

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