Press Perspective-Kneeling during the national anthem: a demonstration of freedom or disrespect?

Sabrina Suen, Opinion Editor

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The History

If you’ve watched a NFL game within the last few months, it’s impossible to avoid the controversy surrounding players who kneel during the national anthem, as sign of protest in the face of the rising Black Lives Matter movement and the alarming number of fatal black shootings by police.
The demonstration was started by the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who refused to stand during the national anthem at one of the opening games of the season because of the institutionalized racism in the justice system.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses people of color. To me, this is bigger than football …There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” Kaepernick said.

How this impacts Liberty’s team

An increasing number of high school teams have chosen to participate in the protest, kneeling at games as the pep band plays the anthem. At the second home game of this season, the opposing team, Cleveland High School, kneeled as the anthem played.
However, in contrast with Cleveland’s decision, Liberty’s team made the deliberate choice to linked arms and stand at attention.
“We did talk about kneeling,” Coach Steve Valach said. “You can’t watch the news, or those dash cam videos, and not ask, ‘Why did you have to do that? Why did that man need to be shot?’ As a coaching staff, our message was that locking arms and being one is part of our school culture”.
Instead of kneeling, the team felt that linking arms demonstrated their social awareness in a respectful way.
“Standing shows that we honor the flag, and we’re locking arms to show no disrespect to the country, but we’re aware of the current issues that are dividing us,” Valach said.

How we feel about the demonstration

We here at the Patriot Press believe that Colin Kaepernick’s demonstration is an exercise of his first amendment rights. As a person exposed to extreme limelight and scrutiny, it is admirable that he uses the platform he has been given to bring attention to a cause he believes in.
It is extremely important to us here at the press that freedom of speech is protected at all costs. Whether that be at a high school football game or on the grand NFL stage, we believe that regardless how much people agree with an opinion, the right to possess and express it is an intrinsic human right that should never be oppressed.

How we feel about Liberty’s demonstration

Whilst we feel that the act of linking arms expresses the rightful degree of solidarity with respect for the current political climate and our flag, we are concerned that the decision to act came from the coaching staff and not the football players themselves.
When Cleveland High School decided to kneel, it was a student led decision. They’re voice came in the form of a high African American demographic that felt the need to stand up for their fellow men. Yet, here at Liberty, the coaching staff made the decision for the entire team.
We are concerned that this act won’t hold the same amount of impact when it doesn’t demonstrate the voices of the players. However, we still commend the decision to be socially aware and to take a stand.
Although we understand that Liberty is a predominately Caucasian school, we think that a school’s racial demographics shouldn’t disqualify it from showing awareness and concern for social issues. The problem of institutionalized racism in the justice system is a major issue that affects us all.
It is when we stand in unity with our peers, with the bounds of race removed, that we gain the opportunity to find a common national identity by coming to respect the diversity represented within our society.