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The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

Stand up and play!

Sports are a source of entertainment unlike any other medium; they bring people together no matter their viewpoint, for the love of the game. No one is tuning in to watch athletes protest an issue.

For over a year sports have become a platform for voicing opinions on politics, starting when Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the anthem prior to games to raise awareness about police brutality.

The NFL and NBA recently went a step further by moving away from Kaepernick’s original message to speak out against President Trump instead.

Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick with teammates kneeling during the National Anthem last year.

My big question is, how is this not taking away from the sport? How does this protest anything? How does this spark some big societal changing event?

I normally stray from politics at all costs. I am both a sports writer and a fan, and I have a general disdain for the constant bombardment of politics. However, due to recent events I feel strongly enough to stray from that and use my first amendment right to say that kneeling during the anthem is upsetting because of what it symbolizes and disrespects.

It is a huge privilege to attend the White House after all of that hard work no matter who is in office. If it is a real issue to attend why does this have to take away from the actual sport and turn into a political statement?

You didn’t win this privilege because of your politics, but because you’re a part of a sports team that won a championship.

Professional athletes are paid astronomical figures and are known by the masses which gives them both the means and the ability to speak out and have people listen, especially in this age of social media. Who doesn’t follow an athlete to see what they do off the court or the field?

jaguars nfl kneeling
Jaguars take a knee and lock arms during the National Anthem on Sept. 24, 2017.

The average employee would not have the same influence as pro athletes and would not be allowed to speak out in the same way that football and basketball players have.

Politics have no place in sports. If one was to do the equivalent of this in the workplace they would likely be fired.

Athletes are often viewed as heroes and this behavior is exploiting their hero status. Awareness of a political issue is one thing, but taking away from the sport that procured their fame and ability to have a national platform is unfair. Play ball. Dribble. Pass. Hit. Play. But don’t make that the means and the reason.

Patriots kneeling
Patriots football team kneeling during the National Anthem in protest.

Kneeling as a form of protest has become widespread to an almost silly extreme. Even athletes in elementary school have started to adopt the practice, and what is that going to change? An 8-year-old in an affluent neighborhood needs to protest police brutality in Pop Warner? The platform defense isn’t plausible in this instance but rather the need to be like their heroes.

Professional athletes need to understand how their behavior is being viewed. No change has come of this. It is not leading to legislation. If anything it is affecting their own financial stability.

President Trump called for a boycott of the NFL which saw a mixed decline in viewership this past weekend. According to Forbes, the Redskins-Raiders game saw an 11 percent drop in viewership over last year’s viewership during week three, however, CBS’s back-to-back games saw an 11 percent rise during the first game and a one percent decrease in the second.

Your own political viewpoint aside, there is a level of respect that you should simply have during your country’s anthem. The flag isn’t just a piece of cloth. The flag stands for something, it symbolizes a country’s freedom and rights that gives people the right to kneel in the first place.

Political nfl
Baltimore Ravens players lock arms in protest on Sept. 24, 2017 while the crowd disagrees with the statement.

Now some people see this as a way for athletes to make a political statement and use their first amendment right. Sure, we have the right to peacefully protest but doing it during work is not the right thing to do. In the age of social media and everyone being constantly tuned in there is another outlet where an athlete can have their opinion heard and voice desire for change.

College sports are in a league of their own. With the use of kneeling within major league sports, amateur athletes see this as a way to follow in the footsteps of the NFL and the NBA and then take a knee.

These are two separate ideals, where the NBA and NFL are taking away from the sport and getting paid to do so, amateur athletes see this as a way to support major league sports and be like them. Either way, doesn’t this take away from the sport?

College is the time for you to form your own opinions but also to look towards the future and work hard to achieve a bigger goal, like being drafted for a major league team. It’s not the time to make a political statement that honestly probably won’t even be seen. Let alone seen as a reason to change anything at a higher level.

Say you were scouted in high school and are now playing on a scholarship, what would kneeling, locking arms or not coming out of the locker room accomplish at the collegiate level when it hasn’t really evoked some change at the pro level?

Your focus shouldn’t be on the latest team kneeling, locking arms or whatever else but instead on if your team is going to make it to playoffs. Everyone has been taught to respect the flag but where has that respect gone?

Don’t take away from the sport by using it as a platform for your opinions on whatever hot topic you want to speak out against. I’m all for your freedom of speech, but it shouldn’t be done at work. Save it for off the field and instead get on the field and play.

Play for the little kid in you that always dreamed of being a role model and doing the right thing, and oh yeah, play for that kid that fell in love with that sport in the first place.

Steelers Villanueva
Pittsburgh Steelers and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva standing alone during the National Anthem while teammates stayed in the tunnel.

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  • J

    john carterOct 6, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    great post

  • R

    Ron BremerOct 4, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    I have to agree with the author that the players have the right to take a knee instead of standing for the national anthem. I also agree that doing so may not be the best way to protest. In fact, it might cause a backlash instead.

    Like the author said, sports are things that bring people together, and in these days of polarized politics, does our country really need to have its pastimes become divisive partisan events too? I think not. In fact, sports might be some of the most important things happening in our country right now. We all need opportunities for people of every stripe to get together and enjoy a good game instead of thinking about each other’s positions on hot-button issues. If sports become politicized, I think it will be a great loss to all of us.

    The players who choose to take a knee should should seriously consider the author’s question: How does their action spark a society-changing event? I think the answer to that question is that it harms sports by politicizing them, without actually helping a cause. Players have many other opportunities to use their fame to protest away from the field. Posting on social media, or speaking out at other public events are much more effective forms of protest, because they allow the players to deliver a message about a specific issue. Simply taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem won’t address an issue, but it will certainly alienate a bunch of people who might otherwise be open to listening to the player’s message. If they really want to make a difference, players should speak out, tell people what they stand for, and encourage them to take action and vote.

    And just one more thing: Athletes should keep politics out of sports, and politicians should keep sports out politics.