The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right to free speech. Sometimes this right is spoken and sometimes it is displayed through actions.
Recently, NFL San Francisco 49er’s player Colin Kaepernick displayed his First Amendment right through quiet protest by sitting or kneeling during the pre-game National Anthem.
Since his controversial actions, other athletes on the professional, collegiate and high school levels have joined him. While some have kneeled in support of Kaepernick, many have explained why they remain standing.
Victor Cruz, New York Giants Football Player
Victor Cruz states, “You’ve got to respect the flag,” Cruz states in a recent article, that to him, regardless of how a person feels about the events taking place in the country, the flag is to be respected and athletes should stand with their teammates.
In his opinion, people should realize that the National Anthem is not about the individual, and standing is more than just pledging allegiance to the flag. It is a time to stand with one’s team and reflect on the scale of the game about to be played in perspective to the events going on in the country.
Draymond Green, Gold State Warriors NBA player
While Draymond Green respects Kaepernick for acting in a way that started the conversation of modern day black rights and police brutality and believes change is needed, he says he will continue to stand during the singing of The Star Spangled Banner.
Despite conversation and debate on the situation, there remains uncertainty of the next phase of this movement. People have taken notice, but what is happening as a result?
“Am I going to kneel down or put my fist up? No, I’m not,” Green said in a recent New York Times interview.
He holds no negative opinions towards Kaepernick or other athletes who choose to kneel, and believes their actions have successfully brought about awareness; however, continuing to kneel simply continues to reiterate the same point rather than bring forth actual change.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers NBA player
LeBron James simply says he will continue standing during the National Anthem because, “That’s who I am. That’s what I believe in,” according to ESPN.
His choice to remain standing is a simple reflection of him as a person and nothing more. While James will not take a knee during the National Anthem, he continues to support Kaepernick and believes he is exercising his right to free speech in a peaceful manner.
Eddie Royal, Chicago Bears Football Player
For Eddie Royal, standing during the National Anthem hits home and is personal. His sister serves in the United States Air Force and was previously stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, rendering him unable to hear The Star Spangled Banner and not think of her service and sacrifice.
Putting her life at risk for others has made a tremendous impact on Royal, deepening his love and respect for her. He states in a Chicago Sun Times interview, “So it has a special place in my heart and any time I think about it I get choked up because just seeing my sister going over there to protect us. It means a lot to me.”
Jurgen Klinsmann, United States National Soccer Team Coach
Jurgen Klinsmann moved to the United States from Germany, so his perspective on standing during a country’s National Anthem is perhaps a bit different from others.
According to Klinsmann as reported by the Miami Herald, during his days as an athlete in Germany, players who did not sing the German National Anthem were viewed as less committed and became the subject of criticism, often pictured on the front page of the newspaper.
Not only does he proudly sing the National Anthem, he recognizes some of his players are dual-citizens who may not have lived in the United States to learn the words, so he provides the lyrics and encourages players to learn them.
He states, “I wouldn’t force any player to do whatever, but I kind of asked them to enjoy this moment, to sing the anthem, to be thoughtful about who you represent.”
The Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks Football Teams
+ Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Houston Rockets Basketball Teams
While players from these teams continue to stand during the National Anthem, they have been engaging in a symbolic gesture that continues to show honor and respect for the flag while supporting and keeping the conversation of black lives and police brutality active. Players from these teams link arms to show unity with each other, regardless of race.
Brandon Marshall, Denver Broncos Football Player
While Brandon Marshall was a previous kneeler, he has returned to standing during the National Anthem. According to an article found at SB Nation, he believes kneeling has sparked discussion and progress, such as a review of policies on force conducted by the Denver Police Department.
Additionally, Marshall says his return to standing during the National Anthem is in support of the Idriss Stelley Foundation, which provides free support to victims of police violence, and the family of San Francisco police shooting victim O’Shaine Evans.
These seven we highlighted, but many more chose to knee and many also chose not to. We are simply highlighting the different stance and showing that you can agree with a position and still disagree with the method of defending it.