NFL protests force Americans to take sides, reconsider patriotism

First Amendment rights examined as pro athletes gain negative attention with silent protests

K. Asher, C. Blanco, and A. Williams

Pro football player Colin Kaepernick, along with several professional athletes across other sports, sparked a firestorm in America  late 2016 when they decided to kneel and bow their heads during the national anthem, silently protesting the mistreatment of people with police officers.

Politicians, corporate sponsors and team owners are not the only ones who have been vocal about the way these athletes have chosen to exercise their First Amendment right to protest. Red Oak Hawks have strong feelings about it too.

Rachel Wilcox, an ROMS eighth grader, said that she did not support how the professional athletes are kneeling and bowing their heads during the performance of The Star-Spangled Banner, or simply being seated and not putting their right hand over their heart.  “When professional athletes do things like that, they become terrorists like Hitler and Saddam Hussain,” Wilcox claimed.

She also said that by doing this, they [those protesting in this way] were “being trash.”  Wilcox agrees with what President  Donald Trump said on the issue. In a Twitter post, the president urged all football fans to stop coming to the games so that the NFL would lose money, and be forced to “fire the players.” Why does Wilcox agree? She agrees because she loves firing people.

Seventh grader Olivia Barrett is another student who does not support any pro athletes kneeling, bowing, sitting or raising their fist during the national anthem. Barrett has seen athletes do this multiple times on TV and said the players are doing this for attention. Barrett thinks what they are doing is disrespectful. She said “The pro athletes’ coaches should listen to the tweet by [President] Donald Trump and fire or suspend their athletes when they do this,” Barrett suggested.

Honee Berlin, a teacher at ROMS, had different thoughts on the matter.

She believes that the Dallas Cowboys and team owner Jerry Jones  handled it well when they knelt before the anthem but stood up with locked arms during the anthem. In her opinion, they were doing it to protest inequality. Berlin doesn’t agree with what the President said when he referred to the protests as “not tactful.”

On the other hand, she also sees why some members of the military and law enforcement community would find it rude and disrespectful. “People have problems with what the protesters are  doing, Berlin but they can express their opposition in another way,” Berlin said.

 Eighth grader Ethan Pacheco has seen people in locker rooms or kneeling. He thinks they’re doing this because of the president and to respect the country. Pacheco, a student athlete, is still a sports fan and thinks players are doing it the right way and peacefully which is good. Pacheco believes the president’s message on Twitter was basically saying if they do this he wants them out of the NFL.

Another person who has somewhat similar views is Coach Robert Winn. Winn agrees with the protesting 100%. “They’re doing this to recall justice in the country,” he said.  He liked how the Dallas Cowboys locked arms and knelt before the national anthem, showing support for both points of view.

Julius Cervera a 7th grade student supports athletes kneeling, bowing, sitting and raising their fist during the national anthem. He has seen this happen on television and thinks the athletes are doing this to entertain viewers and to earn more money.  He thinks the coaches should not listen to President Donald Trump, because if they fire or suspend the players, they will lose viewers. 

Science teacher Mrs. Southard, has a personal connection to the issue. “I am a veteran of the Army and I think that it is disrespectful to the men and women who have served,” Southard explained. “I am not happy with how the athletes are expressing their feelings. There are other ways to do that.”

 Armon “Ari” Bradley also has a connection to this issue: His father was in the military. The eighth grader believes this protest comes off as disrespectful. If he were a professional athlete, he would not kneel — but he doesn’t care if others do it. Bradley has seen this happen on television and thinks the players are only trying to make a statement. He has seen them put their fist up, sit down, and kneel. He also thinks President Trump’s tweet was not appropriate, but Bradley understands why the president urged team owners to fire and suspend players. 

…DO something about it.”

— Zoe Silas, 8th Grade

As much as the media reports about athletes, protests, tweets, rights and responsibilities, the bottom line is that police brutality and injustice are still problems facing America. Eighth grader Zoe Silas has a practical response to the protest issue.

“It’s dumb to use Twitter,” Silas remarked, referring to social media messages about the protests. “Actually go and do something about it.”