The freedom to take a stand — or a knee

Over the past few weeks, football athletes like Colin Kaepernick and Brandon Marshall have come under the spotlight of the media for refusing to stand during the national anthem.

In Kaepernick’s words, he is “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color”.

Some may see this as downright disobedient and disrespectful towards the country and those who have fought for the freedoms of its people and its values. With that being said, one can just as easily argue that sitting to fight against injustices is part of the very same freedom granted in the First Amendment.

Kaepernick and Marshall, both African Americans, stand behind the Black Lives Matter movement, seeking changes in the way minorities are treated in a country that claims to thrive on equality. It is no surprise that they are under fire for their lack of action during the anthem, and the attacks on their stances were immediate. Marshall lost an advertising endorsement with Air Academy Federal Credit Union, and Kaepernick continues to receive verbal backlash.

Lashing out against the athletes is hypocritical in itself; if America is so dead set on freedom of the people, why are they being attacked for what they have every right to do? They are free to choose not to stand if they believe it goes against their own principles. If they feel the country and its people’s actions do not represent its values, it is their right to stand — or sit — against it.

It is crucial that when a minority tries to speak out about their experiences with racism and social injustices, they are not silenced. These athletes used the oppressive act of silence in order to take back power so many like them have lost.

Both athletes participated in a peaceful protest against oppression and police brutality towards minorities.

They did so with knowledge of their platform and their taking a stand on such a massive scale puts them at risk of losing everything. Would they willingly risk their security if there wasn’t a bigger issue at hand?

Clearly this is something that needs to be looked at more closely. It is not just a couple athletes of color trying to stir up pointless controversy. This is looking at racism through the lens of those who are not listened to. Through big figures like these professional athletes, people of color have a chance to speak out about what they think is wrong with our society, and more importantly, what must be improved. People like Kaepernick and Marshall are using their platform to give voices to those who cannot be heard.

In Kaepernick’s words, American citizens are “dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody.” Everyone may not agree with his viewpoint or any view of the athletes who choose to sit or kneel during the anthem. What is important is understanding that each individual has the right to do so.