In 2016, the San Francisco’s 49ers’s quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, took a knee during the national anthem to protest ongoing police brutality. This seemingly harmless action ignited both nationwide outrage and support. While the National Football League (NFL) has no rule where the players must stand during the national anthem, the action sparked nationwide debate over whether the action was appropriate or not. While the form of peaceful protest by kneeling during the national anthem continued quietly for the next four years, Kaepernick was essentially blacklisted from the NFL and players who continued to protest were heavily ridiculed for using their right to protest peacefully.
In the summer of 2020, George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers and the murder was caught on video, spreading throughout the nation. While sports were just starting to crawl back from restrictions put in place during the rise of the pandemic, players began speaking out again. Whole teams began kneeling during the national anthem. After the shooting of Jacob Blake, teams began to not attend games and forfeit the matches in protest. Both outrage and support swelled; but this time, their organizations and coaches followed suit of their players. Players were supported by their teams for choosing to protest. Team representatives are speaking out against racism, inequality and police violence. They are reminding those who are outraged that sports involves people, not just players who have no life or emotions outside of their career.
This has caused many viewers across the nation to loudly proclaim their support, but unfortunately, it also has people loudly proclaiming their anger. Many people have announced that they intend to stop watching sports until players stop protesting or are removed from the team.
Honestly, if you’re one of those people who has shamed any player or team for taking action, you are on the wrong side of history and choosing to stop watching sports is your loss.
Just because you watch these people on television doesn’t mean they are just cogs in a machine. Just because you support their team does not mean that you, one viewer out of probable thousands, gets to control their feelings and actions. Each and every player on a team has their own set of personal beliefs and attributes, and they have every right to stand up for what they believe in. They have the right to strike as workers. They have the right to protest as citizens. To simply not acknowledge that there is a systemic and ongoing issue regarding inequality in this country is shameful.
The thought of risking your whole sports career, something you’ve trained your whole life for, just to stand up for what you believe in is terrifying. It is so wonderful to see that players are no longer being shamed or even fired for speaking out against racism and that they are being supported by their coaches and team representatives. While it may lose the teams some viewers, and maybe even some sponsors, hopefully the support from their communities rings louder than the hate. It is important for everyone to speak out against inequality, no matter your profession. Every person in America has a right to protest and have free speech. These players are not in the wrong for exercising that right.