Article by Liz Sunga
American football is a sport often in the light of heated debate. From arguments including whether or not football should truly be called football or if football is the cause of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, there is much to say on the sport. In recent weeks, a new controversy has arisen in stadiums across the United States. Numerous athletes and coaches are protesting against racial discrimination by kneeling and linking arms during the “Star Spangled Banner” and it is not done without notice. Heated debates over the issue have risen and it all leads to the question: Do politics belong in sports?
This all began last year when Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49er, went down on one knee during the anthem to protest police brutality, specifically to minorities. This wasn’t taken well by many football fans, and the N.F.L. who were outraged by the political message. Kaepernick was even quietly blacklisted from the sport, as he lost loyal fans due to his actions. Even Donald Trump voiced his dislike of the gesture, tweeting, “Courageous Patriots have fought and died for our great American Flag — we MUST honor and respect it! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” (Twitter). They deemed him unpatriotic.
As the occurrence of this form of protest increases among football players, fans are split over the issue. People against this form of protest point out that it is disrespectful and immature, that sports and politics should not mix. An article on the Odyssey explains that “politics are a very serious issue for some people…Sports, on the other hand, are supposed to be an escape from the everyday world for most people” (Matt Kipp, the Odyssey). Many believe that as sports provide a comic relief for the stressful lives of your average American, it shouldn’t be tainted by additional drama for the viewers.
James K. (10), believes that everyone should stand with their hand over their hearts during the national anthem and agrees that politics and sports should be kept separate. He believes that the athletes using their games to protest politically “need to rethink their problems [as] they are making generalizations about the population and dealing with it like little kids who don’t get exactly what they want”. Furthermore, he does not think sports and politics should mix because “one of the reasons it’s so popular is because for the most part they don’t–It’s a way to escape from all the political turmoil going on in the world.”
However, not everyone agrees with this and are more empathetic to the cause of these protesting players. ISM student, Bryan P. (10), an avid football follower, supports the athletes taking a stand “because they have every right to express their First Amendment rights–it’s in the Constitution.” He points out that “protest is going to feel uncomfortable to those who are not oppressed, but that’s the only way to get things done”.
Coming from a similar standpoint, ISM AP US History teacher Mr Berg believes that “these players are protesting serious social issues that need to be talked about in America.” He argues that within in the US right now, the majority white population doesn’t think there are any major ethnic or racial injustices and issues. “[It is] a fair form of protest [that will] bring awareness to the cause”. Additionally, he strongly believes that politics and sports mix as “sports is at the forefront of America…and it is a great medium to present social justices…because many people look towards sports as an outlet of news rather than the conventional political news”.
What is your stance on the issue?