Anyone who has ever gone to a professional sports game in America knows what happens before the main attraction. A singer is introduced and walks out, while a group of soldiers or another designated group stand nearby, bearing the American flag. The National Anthem is played as the singer bellows out the lyrics, finishing to a crowd erupting with applause and cheers. One may feel an array of emotions during this; some swell with pride for this nation and how blessed we are to live in a country like it, while others are humbled in thankfulness for those who have risked and even lost their lives to serve their country. More recently, however, a number of people, particularly sports players, have chosen to sit and not honor the anthem, sparking much debate. One side supports this decision and says it resides under the free speech amendment. Those who view differently, say sitting while our anthem plays is disrespectful to the country and those who care about it. Which bias stands correct? Should various sports leagues force their players to stand up during the anthem, hence taking away their freedom of speech? Or should these acts be tolerated?
Sitting for the National Anthem stands out as a big controversy this year. Colin Kaepernick, then starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, was the player to initially remain seated during the song. Many were appalled by his actions, but shortly after, other players around the National Football League joined along. Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color” (NFL.com). While Kaepernick, and many others in America, believe there is discrimination towards minorities in this country, this is not the intention of the country. In fact, the Constitution’s thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments deal with problems the nation has had involving racial bias. These laws abolish slavery, define that citizenship is not based on race, and allow any U.S. citizen to vote. Many other federal laws, outside of the Constitution also prohibit discrimination based on race, religion, and sex. Even though one person or a group of people may experience racial bias, the United States as a nation gives equal opportunity to everyone and does not oppress individuals based on any discrimination.
While people ask who is on which side, the big question is whether or not it should be allowed. Some people say sitting while the National Anthem plays is unconstitutional, but they are wrong. While many people cringe at the disrespect and would love to have five minutes alone with those who do not honor the flag, this act is protected by the first amendment as a form of free speech. One needing some help understanding the right to sit for the anthem could turn to the landmark Supreme Court case, Texas v. Johnson, in 1989. During a republican national convention in Texas, Gary Johnson burned an American flag to protest against President Ronald Reagan. This violated a state law, and Johnson was arrested. Working its way up to the Supreme Court, the majority dissented that even though society may not approve of an action, the moral beliefs of a group of people cannot suppress symbolic speech (Texas v. Johnson). Even though several people find it mocking and offensive for others to protest the national anthem, we cannot force them to do so as their freedom is protected by the Constitution.
Many might choose to exercise their first amendment right through violent protests or speeches, which seem to make little impression. But, Colin Kaepernick peacefully protested, making a decision no public figure had done prior. He came out leaving a bombshell of a debate that this nation will have to endure for a time yet to come. I hope that we reach a day where we can put aside racial, religious, and political differences and see ourselves as Americans. This country has endured many a good and bad, but let it not crumble over taking a seat.
“Facts and Case Summary – Texas v. Johnson.” United States Courts, United States Court Archives, www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/facts-and-case-summary-texas-v-johnson.
Wyche, Steve. “Colin Kaepernick Explains Why He Sat during National Anthem.” NFL.com, National Football League, 27 Aug. 2016, www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000691077/article/colin-kaepernick-explains-why-he-sat-during-national-anthem.
About the Author:
Name: William Pledger
Age: 15, 16 in November
How many years have you been apart of TPS?
I am currently in my fourth year of TPS.
What classes are you taking with TPS this year?
Russian 1, Chemistry, Computer Programming in Java, Geometry Honors, World History, and English 3 Literature Survey, (also chemistry problem solving but I don’t know if that counts), and Economics will start in the spring
What are a few of your hobbies?
Piano, baseball, debating about politics.
How did you hear about Clay Magazine?
Relatives/TPS friends who were writers/editors for TCP at the time shared their articles and the magazine with me. If Clay is different than TCP, then I heard about it on the website.