In the NFL 2016 pre-season, then–San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to sit during the customary singing of the national anthem. A couple of weeks later, 49ers safety Eric Reid joined him in taking a knee during the national anthem. Both overrun with the injustice of police brutality toward African-Americans, they used their station and their influence to silently send a very loud message.
Fast forward to 2017. Kaepernick now holds the title of “former” NFL player. A president decides to go after him and his peaceful posture of protest at a rally and on Twitter.
I’m not going to pretend that I know everything about the posture of kneeling and the history of how it’s been used. However, when I think of kneeling and the reason for kneeling, I come up with this.
• To pray.
• When there’s an injury at a game, and the players are waiting for the injured one to be attended to and cared for.
• When proposing to declare your love to another.
• To make room for people behind you to be seen in pictures.
• To receive communion at a eucharist, or a blessing from a priest.
• To be at the bedside of someone who is sick or dying.
• To show respect to a monarch or high leader.
• To beg, plead, or petition without threat.
• To talk or embrace a small child.
• In respect of a fallen comrade or soldier.
• To pledge loyalty to a higher power.
• To be knighted.
• To surrender, and/or to be executed.
Taking from the short list compiled, there’s a trend. All are done with submission to an authority, a higher power, or another person. The act inherently is peaceful, respectful, and nonthreatening. It’s often done in love, devotion, desperation, or petition.
So, why are so many up in arms by this peaceful submissive posture? It’s “disrespectful to our flag and country”? How?
They are not sitting with their hats on, talking loudly with each other, swigging a beer and shouting “Fk, America!,” during the anthem. They aren’t burning a flag on the pitch. These players are kneeling, some with hands over their hearts, and others lock arms together, standing in solidarity.
Standing with our hands over our heart has been a cultural patriotic norm for years. However, being in a country that champions the freedoms of speech, petition, and assembly, I fail to see how the players showing respect to the nation and the flag in this way violates the principles of the Constitution. Instead, I see an act done in admiration, of desperation, and ultimately of love. In some ways, it’s a deeper form of respect and admiration for our country and its citizens. It’s just outside of “the way things are done.”
Huh. Well, since January, there are a lot of things that have happened outside “the way things are done.” But because it’s an establishment disagreeing with government, it now becomes forbidden.
Amidst all the controversy, people are getting so wrapped up in the physical nature instead of receiving the message taking one knee sends.
When the NFL players and employees participated in #Takeaknee last Sunday, inspired by Colin Kaerpernick, I received this message: I respect authority; I petition it to change and be for all Americans; I am remembering the fallen; and I am showing my love for my country and its values.
I am respecting and preserving the right I believe to be a self-evident truth.