Kneeling for Justice

Sydney Cooper , Editor-in-Chief

Sydney Cooper (Photo Credit – Lexie Crawford)

Living in a fast-paced culture, it is hard to read past headlines when scrolling Twitter, or beyond the lower third on TV when you are running out the door with a granola bar in one hand and your backpack in the other. The blasts of information that hit students here at Highlands High School is exhausting. However, even when a story is huge, people still tend to not gather facts before stating their opinions.

This is the case with the National Football League (NFL) players kneeling during the national anthem. Some news sources say they are protesting America, others say they are protesting gun violence, and others say they are doing it to protest President Donald Trump. What is the real reason?

The entirety of this movement started with one man, Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback in 2016, when he did not stand during the National Anthem, and instead, kept sitting in protest of police brutality and racial inequality against the African American community in the United States.

He then switched to kneeling after speaking with former Green Beret, Nate Boyer, who told him kneeling was a good way to protest without disrespecting the flag. However, his protests gained traction during the 2017 season when players on other teams joined in as well. It wasn’t until President Trump said players who kneel should be fired, that the NFL decided to change their policy requiring players to stand during the national anthem.

To some, it is shady that the NFL decided to change their policy after President Trump made comments about it, given that he is a government figure giving input on a private business; but, as a private corporation, the NFL can make any decision that they want regarding free speech.

Is it right? It doesn’t really matter, because it is still legal.

Recently, a bigger issue outside of the NFL is trickling into school systems: Not allowing High School students in public schools to kneel during the national anthem. According to the New York Times, a public school in Louisiana, Bosser Parish, forced their athletes to stand during the national anthem because, “It is a choice for students to participate in extracurricular activities, not a right, and we at Bossier Schools feel strongly that our teams and organizations should stand in unity to honor our nation’s military and veterans,” and that, “Failure to comply will result in loss of playing time and/or participation.”

This is not happening at just one school, all over the country, public schools, mainly in predominantly African American communities, are forcing students to stand for the national anthem.

Whether people agree with the sentiment that it is disrespectful to the military or not, this goes directly against the students’ rights as seen in the court case of Tinker v. Des Moines. In this Supreme Court case, it stated that, “school officials could not censor student speech unless it disrupted the educational process.”

Not only does it go against students’ free speech, but it also exemplifies the idea that no matter how students peacefully protest, others will always say there is a better way. Take the African American students in the 1960s who sat peacefully at restaurant counters during the Martin Luther King inspired sit-ins. White people threw food at them, hit them, and told them there was a ‘better way to protest.’

It is rarely actually about the way they are protesting that is upsetting to some, it is that they are speaking up in a system that wants them to be silent.