Peaceful protests creating non-peaceful outcomes

Andre Spruell, Opinion Editor

Freedom of speech is something that we as Americans pride ourselves in, yet exercising it has sparked so much controversy.

Ex NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines last NFL season when he took a knee while the National Anthem played. Since then, nothing has been the same.

Kaepernick taking a knee while the anthem played was viewed by many as disrespectful. When asked why he stated, “It was not an anti-american or anti-military act. It was to shine a light on the serious social issues of this country,” he was quoted as saying in a New York Times piece.

His reasoning for his actions got lost in translation and kind of became forgotten about because the general public got used to it, until the leader of our country decided to make it controversial again.

President Donald Trump at a recent rally was quoted in Teen Vogue as saying, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He’s fired!’”

As a result, many NFL teams have responded by kneeling as a team, not entering the stadium during the anthem and standing with a fist raised up. These actions will likely continue to take place throughout the season.

The idea of freedom of speech was clearly exercised by President Trump but as the leader of a nation like the U.S., he must take into account the amount of weight his words carry.

Both Kaepernick and Trump exercised their right of freedom of speech, which is why we must try to acknowledge both sides of the argument.

For Kaepernick, his version of protesting did not violate any rules when it came to the flag. In fact, we have disrespected the flag more than we think.

Sections 8d and 8i of the code, is the flag should not be used “as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery, according to, which was published six years ago, way before the anthem protests started taking place. Wearing the flag as clothing is something that most people have fallen victim to when the 4th of July rolls around.

Accoring to Time Magazine, the U.S. flag code is violated when using the flag on athletic uniforms, carrying the flag horizontally, and letting the flag touch the ground, which all occur at NFL games. Yet when it comes to standing for the anthem, standing is suggested but is not mandatory.

To trump that side of the argument, those who have the same viewpoint as the President see it as disrespectful because standing for the anthem has been linked to those who currently serve this country and veterans who have had the same honor.

I also think that those who side with this argument probably believe that Kaepernick could have protested against the social injustices of black individuals in a different manor.

The issue with that is that the other protests that have been performed over the same social injustice has generally resulted in some sort of violence. For example the LA and Ferguson riots saw protesters looting stores, breaking windows and wreaking havoc, which are all things that I do disagree with.   

Since kneeling does not violate the flag code, is Kaepernick and those who have followed suite wrong?I think not.

If you are at a stadium or arena when the National Anthem plays, the majority of those in attendance stand up with their hand over their heart, so we like to think.

“The next time you’re at sporting event,” Kyle Koster, wrote in the The Big Lead in May. “Take a look around notice how many people are locked into their phones, sipping their beer or worse during the playing of the anthem. It’s impossible to know someone’s inner thoughts, but the outward actions suggest someone counting the seconds until they can yell, ‘play ball’ instead of basking in freedoms of the First Amendment.”

When the anthem is played while watching the game on TV, the average viewer just sits on their couch, waiting for the game start. If you are a big proponent of standing up for the anthem, then it should be done at all times whenever it is played, even if the flag is not physically in front of you.

There is no question that the flag is symbolic to our country, as it is to other countries and their respective flags because that cloth with our colors holds all of our morals, values and beliefs. So when we believe that someone is disrespecting the flag, it is common for people to be all up in arms.

But before we start chastising Kaepernick and those that have followed his lead, we must recognize that what they are doing is confined within legal boundaries.

This point goes back to the fact that we must do our research. I am a big believer that if someone is not knowledgeable about a certain topic, learn about it before speaking about it.

Something as simple as gathering information on a subject to gain some knowledge on it seems to not be so common. If more people just took a few minutes out of their day to get their facts right, something like getting outraged over an act of a legal, peaceful protest would cause less of an uproar.

Personally, I side with Kaepernick because if we are technically speaking, he and others that follow his lead are not violating the U.S. flag code and it is simply a peaceful means of protesting.

Frankly it is hard for me to see the light in the other side of the argument because the flag represents so much more than our soldiers, it holds our morals, values and beliefs.

If someone feels that a particular moral, value or belief is being disrespected, under the Constitution, he or she has the legal right to not stand up for what they believe in.