The NFL anthem debate: NFL players have the right to kneel

Mark Suchy, Reporter

I would like to preface this article by stating: I stand for the Star Spangled Banner, I support our troops, and I am incredibly proud to be American.

However I find myself even more thankful and blessed to be American during times like these; when the nation is divided over their stance on players in the National Football League (NFL) taking a knee during the National Anthem.

This is because it reminds me how lucky we all are to live in a place where we are free to voice our opinions, we are free to protest, we are free to disagree, and we are free to speak our mind.

As Americans we should all be applauding Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva for being the lone Pittsburgh player to be on the field, standing during the anthem. But we should also be applauding players like Michael Bennet and Colin Kaepernick who aren’t afraid to voice their opinion and face the backlash.

Because that is what makes America great!

To those of you that yell and scream about how they are disrespecting the flag, I ask, how is kneeling during the anthem any less disrespectful than screaming at the top of your lungs “O” during the anthem.

You are simply letting everyone around you know that you support the Baltimore Orioles (while shattering some eardrums in the process).

Those who kneel during the National Anthem are simply letting everyone know they want change in American society, they do not want minorities to be oppressed, they want to stop police brutality, and they want minorities to be socially equal.

I for one, would much rather watch players, who are provided with a massive platform, make use of it and try to inspire positive change. When I hear people yell and shout about how these NFL players should just shut up, put their pads on, and hit one another it makes me shake my head.

Was Muhammad Ali supposed to just shut up and box during the Civil Rights Movement?

Was Wilt Chamberlin supposed to just shut up and shoot the basketball during the Civil Rights Movement?

Was Jim Brown supposed to just shut up and run the football during the Civil Rights Movement?

These athletes all have a certain reverence to their name, they are respected men who stopped what they were doing and used their platform to speak out against injustice. Are todays NFL players not allowed to do the same?

A key foundation of our beautiful country is the freedom to a peaceful protest. These players are taking a knee in a peaceful way to promote a positive change. They are not disrespecting the troops fighting for their freedom to protest. They are not disrespecting anything. These men are exercising their natural rights as citizens of the United States of America.

The players are not calling for vicious riots like the ones seen in Baltimore in 2015 and Los Angeles in 1992.  All they are doing is trying to use their platform to promote change peacefully.

These men are simply being American.