To Kneel Or Stand; A Prisoner's Perspective

To kneel or to stand. The entire country is at odds over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. What began as a form of protest to police brutality and racial and social inequality has now been deemed disrespectful by patriotic fans, opportunist, and politicians. The goal of opening dialogue to address inequality has been met with a form of protest of its own. Instead of people coming together to address the concerns of these players (who are simply exhibiting courage by shedding light on the concerns of those who have no voice), many people, including President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, are accusing these players of disrespecting the flag. 

Disrespecting the flag? That seems more like close-minded opinions rather than objective reality. After all, what harm or benefit is there to the flag whether a player chooses to stand or kneel during the national anthem? And even if kneeling were a form of disrespect to the flag, what commandment or law requires people to respect the flag? What if, for the sake of argument, these players really don’t have respect for the flag? And what if they simply disregard the national anthem as a patriotic war song that divides nations and people rather than unites them? Should such players be forced to pretend that they have respect for the flag? Wouldn’t that be infringing upon one’s rights to freedom of expression? The very rights that the flag is suppose to represent. 

Forcing one to oblige by the views and beliefs of others would be contrary to the idea of what a “free” country is suppose to stand for. But that seems to be what is taking place. People are trying to force their political and patriotic views and beliefs on others. And when people resist such force, they are deemed problematic and “disrespectful.” No person is obligated to respect, admire, or pledge allegiance to the flag (a piece of cloth that in itself symbolizes separation of nations and people). Man’s obligation to humanity doesn’t obligate respect for war and those who fight them. Our only obligation should be to the promotion humanity, which requires open-mindedness and understanding. Instead of being offended by one’s harmless expression of protest, why not try to understand the reasoning behind it. If we really care about this country and the principals of freedom, we’d care less about whether NFL players kneel or stand, and care more about the reasons that compel them to kneel.

Quawntay Adams is a guest writer for Prison Lives. You can find him on

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