A Citizen’s First Amendment Rights: NFL Player Continues National Anthem Protest

A Citizen’s First Amendment Rights: NFL Player Continues National Anthem Protest

The 2016 NFL season got underway on Thursday, September 8th. In his first game of the season, Colin Kaepernick continued what he started in the pre-season: kneeling in protest during the national anthem. The September 12th event garnered both support and heckles for Kaepernick. 

In Support of Kaepernick: The Message Athletes Are Trying to Convey

Recently, stories of racial division and police brutality have flooded the news. With cell phone video recording technology more people are seeing the violence. The Black Lives Matter movement has grown as stories of discrimination and brutality continue to surface.

Colin Kaepernick has started his own peaceful protest by not participating in the national anthem observance prior to each game. His protest began during the pre-season and generated much controversy. Kaepernick is supported by many fans, his teammates, and other NFL players and athletes.

During Monday’s game, Erik Reid knelt by Kaepernick’s side in support. Two other 49ers players, as well as some players from the opposing LA Rams, raised their fists in protest instead of kneeling. At least 17 other NFL players have also protested in similar ways. Other athletes are joining in, too – from high school football players to Megan Rapinoe of the National Women’s Soccer League.

The message of these athletes is not that they are against the military, the police or the nation. What they are against is social injustices. Their hope is that their peaceful actions will spark conversations regarding race and prompt more equality.

Why Some Fans and Players Are Offended by Kaepernick’s Actions

There are many people, however, who view Kaepernick’s actions as disrespectful of the flag, the nation and the people who serve their country. His actions provoked particular outrage by some fans, athletes, and celebrities alike who thought he should show more respect and solidarity with his fellow citizens during an event so close to the 9/11 anniversary.

One celebrity, model Kate Upton said similar protests during a 9/11 game were “unacceptable” and that the athletes “should be proud to be an American,” especially on a day when Americans should support one another. Former Presidential candidate Ted Cruz tweeted, “To all the athletes who have made millions in America’s freedom: stop insulting our flag, our nation, our heroes.”

On September 13th, Trent Dilfer, an ESPN analyst, accused Kaepernick in particular of being selfish and that, as a backup quarterback, Kaepernick’s job is to “be quiet and sit in the shadows.” Fans have even gotten involved, heckling protesting players during games, attacking them on social media and burning their formerly treasured memorabilia.

A Presidential Weigh-In: Even President Obama Had Something to Say

Kaepernick has said that he is “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Amidst the angry backlash, President Obama weighed in. He said that Kaepernick was exercising his constitutional right and that these actions may induce a much-needed conversation about race and social justice in America.

Forcing someone to participate in the national anthem or even the Pledge of Allegiance has been determined by the US Supreme Court to be an act that “transcends the constitutional limitations” of those in power. It also “invades” a citizen’s “sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.”

The Protest Will Continue For the Foreseeable Future

Colin Kaepernick has no intention of stopping his peaceful protest anytime soon. He has, however, adjusted his approach. To honor those in the military, Kaepernick kneels in protest instead of just sitting on his team’s bench.

While not everyone supports his actions, Kaepernick is getting some of what he hoped for: recognition for his cause. Only time will tell what the results will be, but Colin Kaepernick and his supporters hope that they will be able to spark some action toward equality for all.