Kneeling During the National Anthem:

3

Kneeling During the National Anthem:

Standing Up Against Kneeling During the National Anthem

[Introduction] Imagine you come home on a Sunday afternoon from church. You want to

relax so you plop down on the couch, turn on the T.V. and get ready to watch some Sunday night

football. The Color Guard presents our nation’s flag and some celebrity sings our national

anthem. Pay close attention to what takes place (show video here). What does our national

anthem stand for and why do we sing it?

[Statement of Facts] Our country’s first amendment allows for the freedom of speech and

expression. Such a right allows for news companies, the newspaper, protesting, and many other

good things. Unfortunately, the first amendment also allows people to burn the flag, burn army

uniforms, and now, kneel during the national anthem. A few athletes have knelt here and there

throughout the years, but it has increased recently due to the former quarterback of the San

Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick took a knee on August 26, 2016 stating, “I am

not going to stand to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of

color.” This act drew a lot of attention to himself and in a domino effect, many other professional

athletes across a wide range of sports have now started kneeling. Even some high school athletes

have knelt while the anthem is being played. These athletes say they are kneeling for many

reasons but the most common is to bring awareness to those who they feel are oppressed or who

are treated without equality. The act of protesting by kneeling during the anthem has become a

wide-spread occurrence. Kaepernick’s calculated moment started a movement that has caused

much dissension in both the realm of sports and the realm of politics. The issue of athletes

kneeling in protest during our national anthem has made itself nationally known and is one that

our country needs to address.

[Division] It is agreed that protesting is legal, but our country is split over whether it is

appropriate to protest in such a manner during our country’s national anthem. That is what I am

here to talk about today. Although lawful protest is protected by our first amendment, it is

inappropriate to do so during the national anthem. Protesting by kneeling during the national

anthem is inappropriate because it shows disrespect and dishonor to our armed forces, it is

counterproductive, and it undermines the ideals of national unity and camaraderie.

[Proof I] First, athletes who kneel during the national anthem fail to honor our country’s

armed forces. Those who serve our country are some of the most courageous people. Countless

men and women serve to protect this great country that we all hold dear. These people must be

willing to make sacrifices every day, which can often include their very lives, for things we so

easily take for granted. The freedom and security we cherish exists because of those who have

fought and those who continue to fight to protect it. When we set aside a few minutes to stand

and sing our national anthem, we do so to give tribute to our country and to remember and honor

the courageous men and women who have served and are currently serving our great country.

These people deserve the utmost respect for the sacrifices they have made and continue to make

to insure our safety and freedom.

An excellent example of this would be Olympic athlete and World War II veteran, Louis

Zamperini. Zamperini was an outstanding runner, setting many records for his school, and being

selected to run for the U.S.A in the Olympics. His athletic career was halted, however, by the

United States’ entrance into World War II. Louis Zamperini willingly put that on hold so that he

could serve his country. He became an airman and worked on board a bomber. This was an

incredibly dangerous position since the life expectancy for pilots and those serving on planes was

very short. You were fortunate if you flew a mission and were able to come back to base the

same day. Zamperini willingly laid his life on the line every day, knowing that he might not come home. Another risk he had to be willing to take was being captured. The fate of prisoners of war was often brutal. Now if you know the rest of the story, you know that Louis Zamperini endured just about everything imaginable as a prisoner of war in a Japanese P.O.W camp. When Louis signed up to serve in the military, he knew full well what could happen to him in the line of duty. However, he still signed up to serve his country and his fellow Americans. This just goes to show how much he sacrificed and had to be willing to sacrifice, as a soldier. Louis Zamperini is just one example of many who have unselfishly our country. Those who serve our nation, like Louis Zamperini, deserve nothing but gratitude and honor for their selfless sacrifices, sacrifices that protect our freedoms and enable us to enjoy the blessings of living in America.

When a player kneels during the national anthem, however, it shows that their own

personal agenda is more important than taking a few minutes to reflect upon and respect these

selfless warriors. They dishonor the very people who gallantly fight and died so that they can

have the freedom to play sports in a free country, so they can even protest at all. This is a

disheartening irony. Cicero defines justice as equity or giving to each person what he is entitled.

The apostle Paul says in his book to the Romans, “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to

whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor”

(Romans 13:7). The men and women who serve our country deserve honor for their sacrifice and

protection. They should be shown this especially during the national anthem, as it is a time

specifically set aside to commemorate them and the sacrifices they make and have made for us.

Jane Hampton Cook talks about the importance of the national anthem in her article for The Hill.

We stand, not for ourselves, but to remember those men and women who pay or who have paid

the ultimate sacrifice. The national anthem is a time for us to take our eyes off ourselves to

remember and pay a special tribute to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Cook uses the

words of John Kelly, father of marine lieutenant Robert Kelly, who died in Afghanistan in 2010,

to support her point. Kelly stated, “I believe every American, when the national anthem is

played, should cover their hearts and think about all the men and women who have been maimed

and killed. Every American should stand and think for three lousy minutes.”

Every year, Buzz Williams, head coach of the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team, talks

to his team before the season starts about the importance of the national anthem and the respect

that is due to our veterans. He has his players line up opposite the veterans, with the chairs they

sit on during games in between them. Coach Williams gives his players a very good reminder

that I believe more people need to hear. He says, We didn’t earn those chairs, your talent didn’t earn those chairs, how tall you are and how fast you run, how well you shoot didn’t earn those chairs. Me draw up a play, me recruit real hard, me work real hard, I didn’t earn the chair. These guys, when they were your age, interrupted their life, they changed their career, and they gave their life for those chairs…Not us, not us. So, when the national anthem is played, we’re going to stand like grown men and we’re going to honor men like this, that gave their lives, so we can have a chair to sit in. And in the two and a half minutes that the song is played, we’re going to

stand at attention in honor of these men. And we’re not messing with our shorts, we’re

not messing with our jersey. Those two and half minutes we’re going to give to the

people that earned these chairs because that freedom allows us to do what we’re doing

(Buzz Williams, Today News).

Coach Williams hits the nail on the head with this talk. Our armed forces do not deserve to be

disrespected in such a manner as they are now and therefore, athletes should not kneel during the

national anthem.

[Proof II] Second, kneeling during the national anthem causes another problem rather

than solving any. Athletes who kneel say they are doing so for a variety of reasons. They say they are kneeling to bring attention to such things as police brutality, racial oppression, harsh

sentencing, and because they feel the United States is not living up to its ideals of liberty,

freedom and justice for all. Yet, whatever their goal may be in kneeling, they are causing more

problems than they are fixing. This is evidenced by the fact that it has quickly become a national

issue and has caused quite the uproar in both the political and sports realms. These athletes

shocked the public with their actions, actions that have sparked conversations of whether they

should be allowed to continue to kneel in protest. It has become a hotly debated topic that hasn’t

seen much resolution. We now have the President commenting on this isue and veterans, as well

as fans, who simply stopped watching and supporting the NFL because of the players who are

kneeling. Tempers are flaring as each side tries to make the other understand their point of view.

While athletes may have brought some awareness to the problems they say they are kneeling for,

they have really drawn more attention to themselves and caused another dispute entirely. They

are causing another problem rather than fixing any. They are undermining their own goals.

If athletes really desire to bring resolution to the issues they believe are taking place, then

they could start doing things themselves to cure the issue rather than just kneeling in order to get

others to fix the problem. Players in the NBA have done this with things they are passionate about. For example, Kevin Durant, small forward for the Golden State Warriors and 2017 NBA Finals MVP, donated ten million dollars in partnership with Prince George’s County Public Schools and College Track. This afterschool program helps disadvantaged kids get into college. Durant said, “We didn’t have the resources to get our minds thinking about the next level. I want to do my part, whatever it is. If College Track students want to be the next Steve Jobs or the next influencer or the next tastemakers, they can get there” (Jennifer Ortiz, WTOP). Kevin Durant is passionate about education and making sure every child has a chance to succeed at the next level, so he did something about it, something that will actively make a difference in these kids’ lives. It would behoove those kneeling in the NFL to heed Kevin Durant’s example. If they try this and it doesn’t work, then they should go about it in a different manner. These athletes are on such a

big stage as professional athletes that they could raise awareness for the issues they are passionate about off of the field. Professional athletes have designated media days where they

meet and talk with reporters and such. They could use their social media venues, with wisdom, as an avenue to broadcast their issues. These are just a couple ideas. They have so much attention

and popularity as it is, they really don’t need to kneel to raise awareness. They could simply use

the massive sphere of influence they have to raise awareness to fix the problems they see. If

resolution was their goal, the athletes who are kneeling should go about it in a different manner

because with their current tactics they are undermining the progress they are trying to gain.

[Proof III] Third, the national anthem is a time for unity and camaraderie. When people

kneel while the anthem is being played they undermine these principles. We stand and sing the

national anthem because it unites our country in many ways. To understand this, it is important to consider the history surrounding the national anthem.

The Star-Spangled Banner was written in the midst of an intense battle. During the night of September 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key, a Washington attorney, was sent to the British command to secure the release of a prisoner when the fleet began to bombard the placements of American fortifications in Baltimore at Fort McHenry. Although the battle raged through the night, the defenses stood firm. The sight of the flag still flying over the fort the next morning inspired the young lawyer to pen these words. Set to a popular English song, “Anacreon in Heaven,” it was officially declared to be the national anthem more than a hundred years later, just before the First World War (George Grant, pg. 152). The setting from which our national anthem came was a war. The fact that it was penned in response to surviving a battle as a country is key. It became our symbol of unity and pride as an independent country. It brought us together and was a token of the love we as a people had for our country. The national anthem brought us together under one flag.

Singing the national anthem at sporting events started during the 1918 World Series, when our nation once again found itself in the midst of war. From then on, playing the national anthem at games became more and more regular, and eventually widespread. Understanding the historical context of our national anthem helps provide insight from the past to bring clarity to the present. As a country, it’s important we remember where we’ve been and why we uphold such honor.

Jane Hampton Cook gives several ways the national anthem unites us in her article for The Hill. Cook says that we stand to focus on what unites us, not on what divides us. Our world is wrought with strife, but the national anthem is a time to remember all our commonalities, everything that brings us together. We are Americans, regardless of our differences. We live in a free country that offers more promise for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness than many others because of the principles our Founding Fathers laid forth in the Declaration of

Independence. Cook goes on to give a couple more ideals that we stand for during the national

anthem. We stand not to pledge allegiance to our current president, we stand to pledge allegiance

to the idea of a president. We have a leader that we elect, not some tyrant king. We have a voice

and get to choose who leads our beautiful country. We stand not because of past or present pain

caused by injustice, but to salute the idea of justice that our country strives to achieve. The

national anthem is a time to remember our history, everything our country has been through, and

those who have gotten us this far. It is a time to take our eyes off of ourselves and look at the

sacrifices people have made for the blessings we enjoy and so easily take for granted. Bob

Russell puts it well when he says, “It [standing during the national anthem] shows appreciation

for our country even though we know it is imperfect.” When we stand and sing the anthem we

are reminded of these truths.

When a player kneels during the national anthem, he knowingly or unknowingly disdains

and disrespects the purpose and principles it represents. He is more focused on himself and on

the message he is intending to convey that he forgets why we sing the national anthem and what

it stands for. He is focused on his own individual issues and fails to come and unite with the rest

of the country as we remember all the blessings we have and do take for granted in America.

Instead of uniting, those who kneel choose to separate themselves from those who stand. They

neglect to remember why we have a national anthem in the first place. They become more

focused on themselves and their cause and disregard the unity and honor the national anthem

seeks to uphold. Brian Sullivan, a retired army lieutenant, brings wise words to bear on this idea

when he says, “There is enough divisiveness in our country. Don’t bring it to sports.”

[Refutation I] On the other hand, those who kneel believe their intentions make kneeling

during the national anthem acceptable. They do not intend to show disrespect to those who serve

our country, but they do want to bring attention to issues they feel strongly about. Those who

kneel say they are doing so to bring attention to various racial injustices, police brutality, the

actions of our current president, and the like. This may be true, and they may have good

intentions, but what they are conveying is entirely different. We have all heard from someone,

our parents at the very least, that it is not what you intend to communicate, but rather what is

conveyed, that matters. Players who kneel may not intend to show disrespect, but their actions

convey disrespect nonetheless. When athletes kneel, they prioritize their own agenda over

showing honor to those who serve our country, and this comes across as disrespectful. Having

spoken to veterans firsthand, the general consensus is that they feel disrespected and even

slighted by those who kneel during the national anthem. In fact, many veterans, as well as fans,

have stopped watching the NFL because of those who are kneeling. They believe these athletes

do have the right to protest, due to our first amendment, but they refuse to watch because of the

disrespect that is portrayed and because of the mess politics has created in sports. The root of the

problem is selfishness. These players show by their actions that what they have to say is more

important than honoring a time specifically set aside to commemorate our veterans. James 3:16

says, “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil

of every kind.” When these athletes choose to kneel during a time that is specifically set aside to

honor our country and its veterans, they are acting selfishly and cause more problems than they

are attempting to solve. Although their intentions may be good, these athletes who kneel must

realize the incredible disrespect they are conveying and should therefore cease kneeling while

the national anthem is being played.

[Refutation II] Second, people may ask if these protests, which are protected by our

rights, accomplish their goal and bring awareness to these issues, shouldn’t they be acceptable.

This is a good question. If the protests, which are not illegal because they are protected by our

first amendment, did accomplish their goal by bringing resolution to these issues of police

brutality and racial oppression shouldn’t they be allowed to continue, if not be encouraged? I

would still say no for a couple reasons. The first is the classic maxim you have all heard a

hundred times, the ends do not justify the means. Just because the results of these protests may

be favorable does not by default make the mode by which they were achieved justifiable. You

must take into account the reasons I have mentioned in my proofs. Their means still convey

disrespect to our armed forces and they still undermine the principles of unity and comradery and

they cause yet another issue. Even if the ends turned out to be good the methods used would not

be. The good results don’t undo the damage done trying to get them.

Second, just because something is a right or is protected by rights does not make them

morally justifiable in every instance. We are allowed rights so that we can ensure we will have

certain freedoms that we know can never be taken away. This does not mean we always have to

exercise them whenever we can or that using them is always the best option. Tomi Lahren puts it

will in reference to Kaepernick when he says, “Just because you have the right doesn’t make it

right and Kaepernick is inspiring other athletes to disrespect our nation as he has.” Those who

kneel think what they are doing is right and justifiable because it is protected by law, but that is

not true. These athletes are trying to use freedom of speech in order to justify the disrespect that

is being shown to veterans. In this instance, their actions show disrespect and, although they fall

under freedom of speech, that does not make their actions right. Just because you have the right

to show disrespect does not make showing disrespect okay. Showing disrespect is never right.

Those who kneel are not showing honor to veterans, they are prioritizing their agenda, they are

causing another problem rather than solving any, and at the bottom of it all they are acting

selfishly. Players should not kneel while the national anthem is being played.

[Conclusion] Even though these athletes’ actions are protected by the first amendment,

athletes should not kneel while the national anthem is being played. Just because these players

have the right to do so does not make what they are doing justifiable and, although their

intentions may be good, they are still conveying disrespect. Their actions dishonor those who

serve our country, they undermine the ideals of unity and camaraderie, and in reality, they cause

another problem rather than solving any others. I urge you to stand against these athletes who are

kneeling and know why you do so. To use the words of Ronald Reagan,

“We remember those who were called upon to give all a person can give, and we

remember those who were prepared to make that sacrifice if it were demanded of them …

Most of all, we remember the devotion and gallantry with which all of them ennobled

their nation as they became champions of a noble cause.”

It is high time that everyone started standing against kneeling and started singing the national

anthem together in unity.

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