Colin Kaepernick may not currently play in the National Football League, but his absence has inspired a movement. Kaepernick began his protest against police brutality and for social justice alone in August 2016, but this past Sunday, over 200 NFL players chose to not stand during the national anthem. With the league and their coaches on their side, at least one player from each team engaged in some form of protest— locked arms and raised fists, kneeling and sitting, remaining in the locker room.
Last Friday, Trump embarked on a tirade against any player who chose to kneel during the anthem, referring to them as “that son of a bitch” and calling for owners to fire those who engaged in protest.
Although Trump may have his own longstanding issues with the NFL, given his role in the 1980s with the United States Football League, it is simply unacceptable for the president of our country — the supposed leader of the free world — to utter such degrading and divisive comments like those spewed this past weekend. He ignores the values that act as the foundation of our country — in particular, freedom of expression, pluralism and, most importantly, tolerance.
Trump may argue that his comments were not racially motivated, but that’s hard to believe when compared to the rest of his rhetoric: he has ostracized Mexican immigrants and called for a ban on Muslims, refused to denounce white supremacists and now has demanded conformity and obedience over championing freedom of expression in a league where the majority of players are black.
But, most importantly, they are initiating a conversation that few people want to engage in.
These symbols of protest against racial inequality have become an argument about respect. While some argue that these demonstrations are disrespecting the flag, the military and the country, they are fighting for equality and for the American ideals that truly make this country great.
But, most importantly, they are initiating a conversation that few people want to engage in. By kneeling, these players, and those joining their movement, are challenging the idea that having a discussion about race and inequality is unpatriotic.
Trump can continue his hate-inciting speeches and call for players of America’s most popular sport to give up their cause or be fired, but with their unified and poignant act of peaceful opposition, they are not the people disrespecting the United States of America. The reason certain individuals are so infuriated by non-confrontational action like this is because it forces those enjoying the status quo of privilege — in whatever forms it takes — to stop and acknowledge problems that are difficult to discuss.
Racial inequality and injustice directly affects members of the Muhlenberg community and it’s time for the rest of us to step up.
A confrontation with security involving racist remarks. Slogans with racial undertones painted on bed sheets hanging in Parents Plaza. Posts on Yik Yak that warranted a town hall on race relations. A solidarity sit-in in Seegers Union. While some may have seen these events as inconvenient, they forced students, faculty and staff to confront issues too often left invisible.
With two Muhlenberg football players choosing to kneel during the anthem and several racially fueled incidents this semester being pushed to the side, our community must no longer be passive to the injustices that occur not only in our country, but on our campus.
It’s always easier to ignore something that doesn’t affect you, but that is the reason issues like this still exist today.