COMMENTARY: NFL players have a constitutional right to protest the national anthem

Photo courtesy of the official National Football League (NFL) YouTube page.

Photo courtesy of the official National Football League (NFL) YouTube page.

Kevin Nobs, Wood Word Contributor

With every week in the National Football League (NFL) comes a new controversy. Players are kneeling for the national anthem again, and it is gaining a lot of nationwide attention, both positive and negative.

Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick first protested the anthem last year. On Aug. 26, 2016 during a preseason game, Kaepernick sat alone on the bench while all of his teammates stood.

Kaepernick is better than a handful of quarterbacks on NFL rosters but remains unsigned because he stood up for what he believes in and fought for racial unity.

In a follow-up news conference following his protest, Kaepernick told reporters, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Watch the full press conference uploaded to YouTube by KTVU News here:

Fast forward to 2017 and national anthem protests have become a regular occurrence.

In week one of the preseason, Oakland Raider running back Marshawn Lynch remained seated on the bench during the playing of the anthem.

A group of Cleveland Browns knelt together, behind their teammates who were standing. The protest led to police officers, military members and EMS workers refusing to participate in the opening day ceremonies because they felt disrespected.

President Donald Trump responded to the protests  at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama.

Trump said that NFL owners should take action by removing players who “disrespect our flag” from the field. He also called for these players to be fired.

Immediately after these remarks from President Trump, NFL fans saw the highest number of protests yet. Players, coaches and owners of all races protested, which is great for people who want to see a change in this world.

Trump clearly doesn’t understand the meaning behind these protests.

Former United States Army Ranger and Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva’s teammates remained in the locker room as a form of protest, while Villanueva stood outside the tunnel with his hand over his heart.

The Oakland Raiders entire starting offensive line, consisting of five black players, knelt together as one.

Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys locked arms and knelt with his team prior to the anthem. Once it began, Jones’ Cowboys locked arms with players from the opposing Arizona Cardinals in a great showing of unity.

A white man kneeling with his diverse group of players was an amazing show of unity, and was a successful form of protesting based on the attention it gained.

These protests were started by athletes of color but now people of all races are getting involved because they want to see a change in the world, too. They are protesting against injustices facing people of color and want to see racial unity become a reality in our country.

Everyone in America has a constitutional right to refuse to stand for the national anthem. It is within every citizen’s First Amendment rights to express their opinions through the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.

Players aren’t disrespecting our anthem, flag or country. They are simply fighting for racial unity, which is something our country needs. There is no better platform to protest than the most popular sport in the United States, football.

Refusing to stand for the anthem is a peaceful protest whether President Trump likes it or not. Players should continue to do so until they see the changes in our country they wish to see.

I hope to see more weekly protests in the NFL because the goal of racial equality is something our country needs to achieve.

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Twitter: @kevinnobs