The Daily Aztec

The NFL is keeping black players from exercising their free speech

by Jasmine Mouzon, Staff Writer

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Colin Kaepernick has now been blackballed from the NFL for more than a year now. This isn’t because he isn’t a talented quarterback, or because he’s getting old. This is only because he decided to take a knee in an effort to bring attention to police shootings of unarmed black men.

According to NFL surveys, black men, like Kaepernick, make up about 68 percent of the league’s population.

Though statistics prove black men practically dominate the NFL, they’re being forced to suppress their opinions on basically anything other than football.

Over the past year or so, NFL players, most of whom are black, have been protesting against police brutality and the marginalization of black bodies, by kneeling during the anthem.

This form of bringing attention to these issues by taking a knee officially began in 2016 when former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers took a knee during the anthem to protest unjust police murders of black men all across our country.

Many saw it as disrespectful toward the U.S military, but ironically, it was a U.S veteran who told Kaepernick to kneel rather than sit during his protest.

Now, of course that did not sit well with all of the fake “patriots” who want to make it seem as if they’re angry over the flag as opposed to admitting they’re angry because the NFL players decided to take a stand. These protests have drawn a lot of attention from the media, both negative and positive. As a result,  NFL owners decided to step in. I don’t believe that NFL players should be required to stand for the National Anthem as a condition of their employment.

At the beginning of the season, Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson and Miami Dolphins defensive ends Kenny Stills  and Robert Quinn all participated in some form of protest during the national anthem.

There were also other players who raised their fists in silence to contribute to the protest. Of course, NFL owners have made it clear they will not tolerate players exercising their first amendment rights, and so they decided to take extreme measures. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said any of his players who don’t stand during the national anthem will be benched.

Clearly standing during the anthem is serious enough to risk the outcome of a  game, so let’s look into the anthem. The Star Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 after witnessing the Battle of Fort McHenry. He was inspired by brave soldiers and wrote the poem, and our nation went on to adopt a portion of it as our National Anthem. However, the third stanza has been left out due to the language involving  black slaves. Key said,

“No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

His verse was basically a diss track to black people, yet our nation sings it so proudly. Ironically, before 2009, NFL players didn’t need to stand for the national anthem. It wasn’t until after the U.S. Department of Defense offered the league money that players started standing.

The rule that forces NFL players to stand for the national anthem is definitely a violation and infringement on their first amendment freedoms. Under the constitution, we all have the right to free speech. By forcing players to stand and threatening to hurt their careers, owners and coaches are essentially blackmailing their employees.

Rather than proposing a solution for injustice, owners have instead chosen to ignore the issues players are trying to fight for. One would think with the league being about 70 percent black,  NFL owners would show empathy rather than cognitive dissonance toward their players.

As black bodies continue to be brutalized, the NFL continues to force players to be “patriotic” to a country that barely respects them. Owners should show human decency and support their players. As Malcolm X once said, “you’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong no matter who says it.”

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