Amid the growing distrust between law enforcement and the African American community, athletes have found a controversial method to voice their displeasure against what they feel is unfair practices by the police—protesting the National Anthem.
NFL player Colin Kaepernick started the movement when he was spotted on the sideline, before his first preseason game, sitting down while the anthem played through the stadium.
After the game Kaepernick told reporters that it would be something he would continue to do throughout the season in an effort to spark change in the way police enforce the law in minority communities.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “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.”
There are many celebrities and others standing strong behind Kaepernick. However, some believe that standing for the anthem is sacred and he should find a different way to express his opinion.
Kaepernicks’s decision is starting to have a wide spread effect on people throughout the country. He believes, and those who agree with him, that it would be hypocritical to stand for the anthem in a country that is not fully protecting all of its citizens.
The protest has even made its way to the high school ranks. At Doherty Memorial High School in Massachusetts, Michael Oppong kneeled during the anthem before one of his games, and was suspended for his actions.
Kaepernick visited Castlemont High School in Oakland, California after they kneeled during a game earlier this season in support of the movement.
“I had to come support y’all, because the same way y’all took a stand and stood with me, I had to come out here and stand with y’all. So I appreciate what y’all did,” said Kaepernick in a video posted to Youtube by assistant coach Ben Arnold.
The team took a photo after the speech laying down with their hands in the air, with Kaepernick looking on in the back on one knee.
Cam Newton, star quarterback of the Carolina Panthers and NFL MVP last year, has given his support to Kaepernick.
“I salute my brother, Colin Kaepernick, for making a stand for injustice in this country, but...the real problem is and will always be the people, and how we treat one another” he said in an Instagram post.
Newton posted this response after some people speculated that Kaepernick disliked Newton for not speaking up more against police brutality, a claim that Newton has faced before.
Hall of Fame coach and ESPN analyst Mike Ditka is among those who disagree with the protest.
“I think it’s a problem ... anybody who disrespects this country and the flag,” Ditka said during a radio interview with 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. “If they don’t like the country they don’t like our flag ... get the hell out.”
Mike Freeman, from Bleacher Report, interviewed multiple NFL executives on their opinion about Kaepernick and most disagreed with his protest.
One executive responding “I don’t want him anywhere near my team. He’s a traitor.”
Although many critics point to the protest as being disrespectful to the military, there is a growing segment of veterans who have offered their support to Kaepernick.
The hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick was started recently by veterans and active military members in an effort to show their support of Kaepernick.
“Don’t use my service—or that of any veteran—to justify the silencing of black Americans,” said Veteran Charles Clymer on his twitter feed. “Not on my watch.”