Misunderstanding at the heart of kneeling athletes controversy

Two & Out
By James Peters
September 29, 2017 - 3:25pm

KAMLOOPS — Those arguing the heated "kneeling during the national anthem" debate are on two different pages, and could benefit from understanding the terms of reference.

More and more NFL players are kneeling during the pre-game playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, a movement started by quarterback Colin Kaepernick last year.

Since then, Kaepernick has been effectively black-balled.

He is a free agent, and it seems no team wants to be at the centre of the controversy he might bring, even though Kaepernick is far better than many quarterbacks employed in the league today.

While Kaepernick's movement has divided fans into camps of supporters and opponents, many more would be supporters if they simply understood what is actually happening — what it is players are protesting.

The players are not protesting the national anthem, nor are they protesting the flag.

They recognize the anthem and the flag are iconography, symbols that represent something greater.

Symbols are not, in and of themselves, sacred.

Instead, they point to a set of ideals that America has striven to exemplify.

They represent equality, opportunity and freedom.

Those words are the targets of protesters, not the flag itself, nor the anthem.

People kneeling during the anthem feel opportunities and freedom are not equal in a country where you can be shot just for being black, and where the president can't even forcfully condemn white supremacists.

The most confusing opposition to the protests has come from veterans and troops.

They didn't fight for the flag and the anthem.

They fought for equality, opportunity and freedom - including the freedom of expression and peaceful protest.

Kneeling football players aren't disrespecting the troops - they're joining them by fighting the battle for freedoms peacefully, and on a different front.

By not standing during the anthem, they are doing something unorthodox to raise an issue into the public consciousness, and it has worked.

If you don't like what those kneeling football players are doing, then perhaps it's you who is not standing with the troops.