It’s common knowledge that America has many problems. Rather than discussing disagreements over the Republican health care bill or arguing over a massive tax reform, President Donald Trump has chosen lately to focus on kneeling.
In August 2016, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to use his powerful reach to peacefully protest racial inequality in the United States, protesting African American oppression and police brutality. He did so by kneeling during the national anthem during a preseason football game. Kaepernick said he didn’t want to, “Show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses people of color.”
Just like any social norm violation, Kaepernick’s action was extremely divisive. Instead of focusing on why Kaepernick was protesting, people focused on the action: seemingly not showing respect during the national anthem. Hundreds of thousands of people were disgusted with Kaepernick’s choice of protest, believing he was disrespecting the country and veterans who served, instead of demonstrating a point.
It’s a little more than a year later and it seems we’re right back to where we started. Americans’ focus is back on kneeling during the national anthem because of controversial tweets posted by Trump. This past weekend, the president turned to Twitter to call out the NFL and players. Trump wants everyone to stand during the national anthem in order to show respect for the country and veterans.
In the wake of President Trump’s tweets, we are left with a bigger, more demanding question: Does anyone really win from this type of fighting?
The reality is, we’re thrown into a lose-lose situation that doesn’t promote positive social change.
This argument hasn’t helped the NFL, either. Even before Trump provided input on this, the NFL’s ratings were down 15 percent. Although this won’t immediately negatively affect the network because of its broadcasting contracts, it’s still put into a tough spot. The NFL is now forced to get political, and it shouldn’t have to. Fundamentally, when companies are forced to become political, they’re going to alienate half of their audience.
President Trump’s unhinged ramblings about kneeling also puts owners in a precarious position. Owners are forced to be political, too, which comes at a cost. Owners have the option of cutting their players for protesting, but that could easily turn into a public relations disaster. Instead, owners are forced into making public statements like, “Yes, it’s 2017, we still have freedom of speech.” They have to protect their player’s First Amendment rights, while trying to retain a positive image of the team.
Finally, it puts players into a tough spot. They could be accused of not being patriotic because of their teammates’ actions and have to choose which side of the spectrum to be on. They have to figure out if they want to put their jobs in jeopardy.
This past Sunday, Sept. 24, a significant number of players of the 28 teams that played took a stand by kneeling in light of President Trump’s statements. Some teams even chose to not leave the locker room until the national anthem was over.
Trump’s tweets essentially accomplished nothing. His lashing out caused no positive change and we’ve made no progress over whether or not standing during the national anthem should be allowed. He invigorates his supporters, but their numbers are limited.
Trump is divisive. Instead of making people believe that not standing during the national anthem is remarkably unpatriotic, the NFL came together in a revolutionary form of unity.
America doesn’t benefit. Instead of any side accomplishing its goal, we’re left with two very angry sides. This shouldn’t be what the goal of activism is. By focusing on the effect and not the cause, we’re failing to address the problem. And what we’re left with is a country more divided at the most fundamental level.
It would be a gross understatement to tell everyone to just “get along” or to not worry about it.
Instead of arguing that people should or shouldn’t be allowed to kneel, we should be focusing on why they’re kneeling in the first place.
Colin Kaepernick said this is due to the racial inequality in America. So let’s talk about that. Let’s not talk about whether or not he should be kneeling. People are so passionate about this issue because they want to come to a resolution.
We have hundreds of other battles to fight. Let’s not add kneeling to the mix.