Abstaining from the anthem continues

Athletes continue to kneel during the national anthem to protest human rights inequalities.


Photo by Taryn Allen

NFL star Colin Kaepernick has been dominating headlines recently after people noticed him taking a knee during the national anthem at a football game in protest of racial injustice. In light of recent aggravated police violence against black people in the United States, Kaepernick is demonstrating a silent strike before every football game against a country and an anthem that he feels does not respect his rights as an American because of his skin color.

Kaepernick gave his reasoning to NFL.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color… To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

The protest is peaceful but not without its controversy. One side of the argument agrees with Kaepernick: the United States flag, which represents freedom and equality above all else, does not seem to cover the rights of people of different races, genders or sexual orientations. That is can no longer be ignored.

The other side of the argument defends the flag: our veterans have fought for freedom and safety, and abstaining from the national anthem is disrespectful and anti-patriotic.

There are people who stand in the middle and see both sides, but however they think, nobody can seem to ignore Kaepernick’s simple action.

And Kaepernick is not alone.

Soon after he first kneeled in a preseason game, other athletes followed his lead. It started on his team, the San Francisco 49ers, but by week two of the NFL season, multiple players from nine different teams were taking a knee. By week three of the season, players from 15 different NFL teams were kneeling in protest of racial injustice and inequality, including Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos.

Due largely to the media attention garnered, the movement has also been expanded far outside the boundaries of the NFL. Athletes of all ages, races and genders have begun to silently object to the national anthem. What started as a racial issue has expanded to become a general issue of human rights. Megan Rapinoe of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team took a knee during a recent game both as a white supporter of racial equality and as an LGBT American seeking equal rights. According to CNN, Rapinoe defended her actions and Kaepernick’s.

“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties… It’s [also] important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this.”

The movement has expanded both nationally and locally. A local high school recently made The New York Times for their decision to kneel during the anthem. Aurora Central High School, among other high schools across the country, has had three-quarters of their team take a knee in recent games, leading to controversy on and off the field.

Students at DU have opinions on this issue, as well. Brendan Teck, a second year student and member of the LGBT community, gave his opinion on the actions of Kaepernick, Rapinoe and others. Teck recognizes the controversy of the movement, but he sees it as more praiseworthy than offensive, overall.

“With all the recent violence that has been facing the African American community with police brutality, and same thing with some LGBT Americans, I think it’s a way of showing people—why would I stand for a country that doesn’t respect my rights?” Teck said.

Other students, like Braiden Albrecht-Reed, are more on the fence about the protest, especially about the specific action of taking a knee.

“He’s kind of doing it in a little bit of a tacky way, and I think he could do it a little more unselfishly, but at the same time, he’s backed [his goal] up. His goal is positive. How he’s going about it is a little more debatable.”

A third DU student, who wished to remain anonymous, was passionate about the issue and commended Kaepernick’s actions.

“I remember in high school when everyone would take a knee for a wounded player, no matter what team they were on. So this, to me, is just the athletes taking a knee for people who aren’t having their voice heard or aren’t having their rights recognized.”

All in all, Colin Kaepernick has people talking. The intent of the protest was to start a national conversation about human rights, and the movement seems only to be growing.


Q: If you saw this or heard about this protest happening on DU’s campus, would you support it?

Teck: “I would. I think it takes a lot of bravery, first of all, and symbols like that, movements like that, they have a lot of power in starting the conversation… Personally, I think that’s what’s most important.”

Albrecht-Reed: “I would not support it. [Kaepernick] is in a much different situation than the students here… He knows his profile and outreach, and in that sense, it makes it a little more acceptable, in my opinion, because he’s able to make more of a real change. If students do it around here… it’s not going to have the same effect.”

Third Interviewee (not pictured): “Yes. I see no reason why not to.”

Interviews conducted Oct. 4 2016 at University of Denver.








3 thoughts on “Abstaining from the anthem continues

  1. This is a great article and a very interesting issue. I like the way you showed both sides to the argument and also included opinions that hover in the middle. It’s also an interesting story to localize because sports, especially football, are so embedded into American society and can act as a source of identity for Americans. We love to hate politicians but we love to love our athletes. We take great pride in our beloved football starts and soccer heroes. They offer us refreshment when we constantly see such calamity in our news feeds. Many times though we forget that they are independent people and can use their agency to take a stand, even if we don’t agree with it.

    This issue comes down to what America “stands for” particularly in our anthem and our flag. Here’s my opinion. I am a believer in free speech. When the American people are angry about something, they have a right and perhaps even a duty to say or do something about their anger. With that, there are good and bad ways to go about expressing your opinion. I think the anthem protest is a bad way of protesting their anger. Not because I don’t believe their anger is valid. It’s true, this country has a lot of work to do in overcoming oppression and racism (and that is an understatement). But the flag and the anthem is not a symbolism of perfection. It’s true, we are not a perfect country. And we will never be a perfect country. Not to say we shouldn’t keep striving for perfect freedom or we shouldn’t keep being angry about its lack or liberty, but the flag and the anthem represent pride. There are a lot of things to be proud about in America. Our soldiers who risk their lives everyday to protect the freedom we do have. A history of great American leaders who have ended slavery, who have “had a dream”, who have overcome depression, and legalized gay marriage. These are the people we are honoring when we salute the flag. Maybe your not proud of America right now. Maybe we are not living up to our promise. But its important to remember we are always going to have problems but we will always strive to overcome and make progress. So don’t kneel down. We have a lot of work to do and we need your help.


    • Rachel,
      Very thorough job on your reply here to Taryn’s story on the national anthem — very passionately written! Nice job!
      –DR. D-H


  2. I like this story a lot, not only in subject matter but the way it is written. I think it would have been easy to interview three people at DU who supported Kaepernick, but it’s really interesting to see things from the opposite point of view which I appreciate. You remain unbiased and objective. The background you give to the issue is clear, informative and flows really well. I think it’s interesting that you included information about LGBTQ Americans as a part of the protest, because it’s something I had never came across in the news until now. Maybe its underrepresented, or I’m just not looking in the right places, but I think it’s a really provocative part of your story.


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