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Oppression in the name of ‘patriotism’

Thoughts on the NFL’s new policy forcing players to stand for the national anthem

Lake Larsen | Digital Media Manager

On May 23, Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the National Football League, announced a new policy for the next football season; it is now required that all players must stand for the national anthem or face a penalty and fine. If anyone objects to the anthem, they may choose to stay in the locker room. This change is in response to league-wide protests of the anthem due to racial injustice. But are the NFL’s actions overstepping their bounds?

The political statement of taking a knee for the national anthem has sparked great controversy over the last two NFL seasons. Many see the kneeling as disrespectful to the flag and those who fought for it, while the protesters began the kneeling as a way to show disapproval with the systematic racial injustice in modern day America. Regardless of how you view this act, the NFL passed a rule that says this is no longer allowed on the field. This shows that the NFL, in my opinion, is more worried about their image than they are about social change.

Thanks to far-right commentators such as Tomi Lahren, the meaning of the protests during the national anthem have been twisted and bent. Far-right advocates saw peaceful protest of racial injustice as nothing more than black players disrespecting our troops. These extremist voices rang loud enough in the ears of the NFL to pass a rule saying players are no longer allowed kneel for the flag and must act in a respectful manner.

If you simplify the kneeling for the anthem into just the act of protesting, you will see that the NFL is not allowing players their first amendment right. By saying the players need to “act respectful” for the flag, the NFL and those who oppose the protests show that their feelings matter more than facts. The national anthem and American flag represent freedom from the oppression of tyranny. Forcing a player to stand for the anthem and flag is not freedom; it is saying a player cannot be free to think and act how they feel.

Saying a player should leave politics out of the workplace is a gross misunderstanding of the situation. An NFL workplace requires players to listen to the national anthem before work. Does a normal workplace do that? The NFL is telling an athlete not to be political while forcing them to be political and patriotic. If it is so hard to watch players kneel for the flag, don’t sing the anthem before games. If it hurts the feelings of the NFL so much to see players exercise their American rights, don’t put them in a situation to need to in the first place.

The NFL’s move to disallow a player’s right to peaceful protest is not only wrong but unpatriotic. Nationalism is standing for a flag because that’s where you were born. Patriotism is choosing to stand or kneel because our flag represents freedom. Stripping players of their constitutional rights by forcing them to stand shows that the NFL does not care about their players. If the NFL wanted their players to be respectful to the flag they would allow them to peacefully protest however they please because, after all, the national anthem stands for freedom, not oppression.

Contact the author at llarsen13@wou.edu

Photo courtesy of: Dallasnews.com