Kneeling athletes have the right to protest police brutality

By Catherine Pigg 

Opinion Editor

cpigg@unca.edu 

 

Colin Kaepernick began his peaceful protest against the police brutality and oppression faced by people of color by kneeling during the national anthem on Aug. 14, 2016.  His gesture became a headline in many news sources and received a mixture of backlash and support from fans.

His protest grew and became an even bigger controversy within the NFL. Kaepernick no longer plays for the NFL but other players from various teams decided to kneel during the national anthem this season in solidarity with the issues he initially protested.

The probability of an unarmed black resident being shot by police is 3.49 times more likely than an unarmed white resident, according to a study by Cody T. Ross at the University of California. This statistic is an example of the injustice these men protest when they kneel during the national anthem.

President Trump tweeted the NFL should fire any player who decides to kneel during the national anthem. To follow Trump’s ill advice would simply be un-American.

These protests are protected by the First Amendment. As Americans, these players and all citizens have the right to peacefully protest. To state they should not have the right to protest is simply un-American. Many Americans fought and died for freedom, something this country so proudly proclaims. Telling people they cannot use this freedom to choose to kneel is contradictory to our constitution, a document held high by many Americans and by the U.S. government.

Many of the critics of this movement within the NFL state kneeling during the national anthem is disrespectful to those who have fought and died for this country. Some critics not only tweeted or posted their anger on Facebook, but went as far as to set their football jerseys or flags on fire.

Rather than try to understand why these players are protesting or look into the issue of police brutality and the continued oppression of people of color, critics would much rather set fire to their football gear jumping to visceral reactions instead of understanding the statistics behind the issue.

The Department of Justice conducted an investigation into the behavior of police in Ferguson, Missouri and found a pattern of conduct which violated the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution as well as federal statutory law. The investigation also found nearly 90 percent of documented uses of force by the Ferguson Police Department were used against black residents in the area.

Critics seem so fond of honoring veterans yet choose to become angered by peaceful protests rather than the lack of resources available to veterans. Only 50 percent of veterans who need mental health treatment will receive services, according to a study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.

A study conducted by Project Muse reported women veterans are four times as likely to be homeless compared to non-veteran women. It is also estimated one-third of homeless men and one-fourth of homeless women served in the armed forces at one point. Data published by Veterans Affairs showed an average of twenty died from suicide every day in 2014.

It can be alarming some Americans view players protesting oppression and police brutality by kneeling to be more disrespectful to veterans than the government’s lack of resources. Instead of protesting the government for the lack of help veterans receive, these critics turn a blind eye to the real issues veterans face and demonize peaceful protest held by various players in the NFL.

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