I have two outstanding students, who both happen to be football players for LaGrange College. One’s black, and one’s white. One’s liberal, and the other is conservative. One’s a “skill position” player while the other battles in the trenches. One thinks players should take a knee in protest, and the other wants to proudly stand for the National Anthem. But both support the rights of players to kneel.
“As a collegiate athlete I constantly hear this topic come up,” said lineman Hank Harrison. ‘Do I stand for the anthem or do I kneel’ they discuss. For me, the decision is simple. I will always stand for the National Anthem. For me, the National Anthem represents a lot of things within this nation such as the multitude of freedoms we experience, but mainly our nation’s great military. The military is the heart is the heart and soul of our country. Were it not for our military we may very well talk with a funny accent or being speaking German today. However, the main point I am trying to make is that the military is the greatest example of unity this nation has to offer. The military is one of the only places you can see people from all walks of life working together towards the common goal of defending this nation and freeing others from oppression. Denver Broncos defensive lineman Derek Wolfe said it best ‘I stand because I respect the men who died in real battle so I have the freedom to battle on the field.’ By standing for the National Anthem I feel I am paying tribute to the men and women who died for me to have the opportunity to pursue a higher education and play college football. I personally feel that it is disrespectful to the men and women who have served to kneel during the Anthem. But this is America and those that want to protest are protected by the 1st amendment and are free to do so as they please.”
Robert Allen, a wide receiver, completely sympathizes with the right of players to kneel during the National Anthem. But he also appreciates the sacrifice of soldiers, America’s freedoms, and former President Barack Obama’s recommendation that both sides work hard to understand the opposing side of the issue.
“Both sides obviously have very in depth and correct stances,” Allen writes. “Statistics do reveal disparities for minorities throughout our nation in education, mass incarceration, police brutality cases, employment, housing, and even wages paid to minorities. At the same time, this amazing nation is also blessed to be defended by an elite Marine, Air Force, Army, Navy, and Coast Guard. Every day there is someone making the ultimate sacrifice for this nation and hundreds of thousands of soldiers who have already made this selfless act of sacrifice. They not only make this sacrifice for their very own family but for every citizen in our nation. We our blessed to be able have freedom of speech, imagine living in North Korea.”
Allen adds this. “The issue isn’t whether one side is right or one side is wrong, but trying to understand the opposition and the reason they stand for what they believe in. Whether you agree with someone or you don’t, realize that everyone is entitled to their very own opinion that is the beauty of living in America. There is common ground and we can approach it together as one nation if we are willing to close our mouth and use our ears even more.”
A Seton Hall poll reveals that 84 percent of Americans agree with these LC players, that NFL players do have that right to protest, even if almost half of that majority personally disagrees with that decision to take a knee during the National Anthem. Like them, I will always stand for the Star-Spangled Banner. But I will also support the protesters, even if I disagree with them.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at email@example.com. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.