Mansoor Esfandieyar

Regardless of how controversial it may be. kneeling during the national anthem is a right protected by the First Amendment of freedom of speech.

Zyva Sheikh, Editor

The following editorial was published in an abridged form in our November 2017 print issue. Print copies can be found in English classrooms or in the media center.

Breaking news: people exercising their freedom of speech are, yet again, criticized and labeled as disrespectful.

On Aug. 26, 2017, Colin Kaepernick, a football quarterback, supposedly disrespected the American flag by not standing for the national anthem during a preseason game. This act of protest has since sparked a fire throughout the country that has yet to die down. While some are revolted by the idea of kneeling front of the nation’s flag, they seem to ignore the true reasoning behind this peaceful protest.

Throughout history, and especially in recent years, the citizens of the United States have been discouraged and challenged when using their First Amendment rights of speech, assembly, and petition. When protesting on the streets, activists are told to sit down. Now, when they are seated, they are told to stop protesting altogether. Eric Reid, a football player who knelt alongside Kaepernick, explained that they chose to kneel because they believed it was a “respectful gesture” and that their  “posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.” Kaepernick did not kneel to spite American citizens or to disrespect the country he calls home. He knelt to protest the mistreatment towards people of color in this country. He knelt to combat police brutality and the inexcusable murder of innocent men and women. He knelt to speak for those whose voices are not heard.

When interviewed by NFL Media, 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. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Thus, many fail to acknowledge the undeniable issues sprouting in our country simply because it doesn’t affect them. If these problems are not recognized and there is no call for action, they will continue to grow until it destroys the entire nation.

There are more than a handful of patriots who are uninformed when it comes to the actual etiquette needed when respecting the American flag. The United States Flag Code establishes advisory rules for display and care of the national flag. Code 176 focuses on actions towards the flag that are condemned. When reading through this section, it is never said that kneeling or sitting during the national anthem is disrespectful to the flag. As a matter of fact, Americans end up violating multiple aspects of the code on a regular basis.

For example, the code says that the flag should “never be carried flat or horizontally.” Generally, it is held parallel to the football field whilst “The Star-Spangled Banner” is being sung. There is a video on YouTube that shows the flag being torn in half while being held like that, but surely this can’t be a sign of discourtesy.

In addition, the code claims that the flag should “never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.” On the Fourth of July, keep an eye out for all the companies who are inadvertently opposing the Flag Code because of their decorations that symbolize, or even use, the flag. Furthermore, the code states that “no part of the flag should ever be used as a costume.” Although it was unintentional, Seminole High School broke the code during this year’s homecoming week. The theme of the third day was the United States, and majority of the student body wore attire that had the flag printed on it. Some wore a miniature flag as a bandanna or had it illustrated on their shirt. People are unwittingly contradicting their own ideals due to their ignorance. If these patriots can partake in such actions without any objection, why are citizens who are using their freedom to kneel frowned upon?

Another argument used against kneeling is that it can be seen as disrespectful to military veterans. In actuality, it is the complete opposite. The men and women serving for our country took a pledge to defend the Constitution that proclaims intent to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,” and “secure the Blessings of Liberty.” When activists exercise their constitutional rights, they are on the same side as the soldiers protecting those rights. These soldiers are putting their lives on the line so that this nation is fair and free, not so that people continue to be oppressed and silenced.

Perhaps having a president who did not see himself as superior would make this topic less controversial. Maybe then the issues Kaepernick is kneeling for would be discussed rather than denied. How can Donald Trump’s constituents support him after he called the neo-Nazis at the Charlottesville rally “very fine people?” He didn’t seem to have an issue when these white supremacists paraded down the streets with torches in one hand and hatred in the other. Where were his frivolous tweets when the lives of innocent humans were taken because of the animosity held by many?

Instead of using his voice and platform to better our country like Kaepernick, Trump is using all of his effort to limit the amount of protests that are either against him or his values. As shocking as it may seem, nowhere is it stated that only presidentially-approved protests are allowed. The person in this country with the most power is feuding with a football player for using his First Amendment right instead of using his authority to work towards ending police brutality and the abounding issues polluting this nation.