When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did not rise for the national anthem in August, he said he was not protesting for himself. As a public figure, he was fighting for those who do not have a platform to talk and have their voices heard.
Kaepernick was the first NFL player to, as he told the media, “protest the oppression of people of color in the United States and ongoing issues with police brutality” using his public platform. But he started a trend. Over the course of the 2016 season, various NFL members have joined and engaged in similar silent protests. So, where does our own home football team, the Chicago Bears, stand (or sit) on the issue?
On September 25, before a home game at Soldier Field against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears players and staff locked arms during the anthem. According to Chicago radio station WGN, in a statement released before the game, the Bears said they are “proud to support our players, coaches and all members of our organization to bring peace and unity together through football.”
The statement and the protest came after President Donald Trump’s calling for owners to fire protesting players.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that sonofabitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired,’” Trump said. In protest to Trump’s statement, over 200 players sat, kneeled, locking arms, or raised a fist during the anthem.
Artist-activist Maleny Lopez Alvarez thinks what many protests need is publicity, and it’s smart to utilize different platforms.
“The NFL is a great platform to get messages across and allow [people] to be heard,” she said. “Players should be more than free to exercise their first amendment right and protest during the anthem.”.
Lopez Alvarez also thinks that it is completely unconstitutional to force players to salute the flag.
“[Pro football] is just a form of entertainment. There are different ways to show one’s patriotism; saluting the nation’s flag is not the only way.”
Skyler Sun is a senior graphic designer in SAIC and is also a huge football fan. Sun agrees that no one should force another person to show their patriotism in a specific way.
“I think everyone can say whatever they want, as long as those comments are not offensive. I don’t see a problem when players protest before the start of the game,” Sun said.“The players did not disrupt the game, and they did not hurt the game either.”
Sun added that the skin color of the players who initially protested had a lot to do with some of the backlash from fans. “It wouldn’t be such an issue if the protestors were not black. This country does not like minorities to speak.” Sun thinks that there are no conflicts between playing a good football game and protesting before the game.
In spite of the opposing pressure Trump puts onto NFL players, the protest movements do not seem to be fading away anytime soon.