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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Matt’s Traditional American Values: On the national anthem protests

Matt's Traditional American Values

Originally, I was planning to write on either the Alabama Senate special election or the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill this week, but, following the escalation of the epidemic of NFL players not standing for the National Anthem (plus the announcement that the NBA champions will not be visiting the White House), I felt that I had to share my thoughts.

While the controversy of NFL players not standing for the National Anthem has been going on for over a year (since ex-49ers QB Colin Kaepernick refused to stand), it almost seemed to be dying down in the early weeks of this season until this weekend.  On Friday night, at a rally in Alabama, President Trump suggested that he wants the NFL and the owners of the 32 teams to step in and cut players who protest the national anthem.  Unfortunately, the president’s comments have seemed to have the reverse effect of making protests more common.  

When a player for your favorite team scores a touchdown or hits a homerun, does anyone care what his political views are?

The entire Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans teams decided to remain in the locker room for the national anthem, and over a dozen players refused to stand in the Ravens-Jaguars game Sunday morning in London.  It even spread to the MLB for the first time Saturday, when Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell took a knee for the national anthem.  The sad irony is that the president’s comments, while understandable, have only reinvigorated this unpatriotic and disgusting protest.  Now, players are going to protest as a way of saying “I don’t like Trump,” instead of even protesting a perceived injustice.

Besides just being disrespectful to our troops and police officers, what these protests have done is take away our society’s last true unifying non-political pastime.  While you would never know that from watching ESPN, tons of Americans want a refuge from their political views when we watch sports.  When a player for your favorite team scores a touchdown or hits a homerun, does anyone care what his political views are?  Sports should be free from politics.  I would not support a player protesting the national anthem because our country aborts roughly one million babies a year either, as saddening as that stat is.  

Lastly, however, the NFL is acting against its financial interests by encouraging these protests.  NFL fans are predominantly conservative, so I partially buy the argument that some casual fans have tuned out the NFL because a minority of players have injected anti-Americanism into the game.  I personally believe that private corporations should not censor the free speech rights of their employees (if the media would stop covering it, maybe it would go away on its own), but it is telling that Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned following his protests.  The NFL is a business, and no team wants to alienate its fans by signing a borderline-serviceable quarterback like Kaepernick that would inspire a vitriolic reaction to so many fans.

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About the Contributor
Matt Colleran, Former Author

Comments (6)

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6 years ago

have you not heard of the right to protest? and that basic flag code denies any of your possible counterpoints?

Stand with Kap
6 years ago

Well, this was an unfortunate mess of melting like a snowflake when confronted by something you don’t like. Where, pray tell, does our constitution state that one must stand for the national anthem? What law of this nation have these players broken?

May I remind you of the quote often attributed to Jefferson: that dissent is the highest form of patiriotism. These players have every right (and a social duty) to do whatever they want within the law to protest a real and painful injustice in their lives. Your calling this injustice perceived shows that you have failed to even attempt to view the situation from their perspective. It is YOU who disrespect the constitution by claiming that these men have no right to the exact rights this nation was founded to protect. Freedom of speech, including peaceful dissent, are protected from ignoramuses like yourself who demand those who disagree with you conform to your toleration of their protest.

Also, sports has ALWAYS been political. Have you heard of the negro leagues? Did you know that professional football was an integral part of the drive to desegregate America (not that the owners wanted it) ? Did you know that players didn’t take the field for the national anthem until 2009, when the military paid the NFL to do so in order to boost recruitment?

And are you aware that in no section of the flag code a section can be found that demands citizens stand for the flag and anthem? There is only a suggestion. Yet within that code, there is a prohibition on the flag being displayed horizontally, which is a staple of the super bowl national anthem. So, if taking the document which governs use of the flag as the basis for arguing what is and is not patriotic and appropriate to do during the national anthem, every super bowl you or I can remember is a more guilty offender than Colin Kaepernick.

Your argument lacks any semblance of legal, moral, or otherwise relevant backbone. I do not see any articles attributed to you that condemn the tiki torch wielding Nazis of Charolettesville, and yet you reserve your harshest criticism for those peacefully protesting an injustice that you are wholly unfamiliar with. Have you no sense of morals? If you believe Colin Kaepernick is less patriotic than Nazis (and your exclusive bombardment of the former suggests this) you should entirely reevalueate your existence.

I would suggest you speed up the process of evolution (do you believe in that?) and grow a spine before you give every conservative in America the reputation of being weak and white as snowflakes.

A concerned reader
6 years ago

Matt Colleran: NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem in protest of police brutality against black people is an “unpatriotic and disgusting protest” and unnecessary politicization of the upstanding institution of professional sports.

Also Matt Colleran: Good Christian bakers, florists, and photographers should feel empowered to express their distaste for homosexuals by politicizing the institution of marriage and refusing to service couples based on their sexual orientation.

bleeble blabble frazzle snazzle
6 years ago

Oh dear. I see your opinion — and I’m not going to argue with you about it, because who’s got time for that — but there are some flaws in your explanation. I’ll just highlight one for your consideration.

You lament the injection of politics into sports. Sports are clearly not apolitical: they reflect power structures, they reinforce power structures, they communicate messages and norms. This is a bigger conversation, but who’s got time for that. Let’s just focus on the national anthem. If you say that sitting for the anthem is political, then surely standing for it is also political, right? That seems obvious to me. Standing for the anthem is as much a political statement as sitting for it, it’s just perhaps less visible as one because it’s been so normalized. Your argument isn’t about the injection of politics into sports, it’s about the injection of politics you don’t like. I’m not going to argue with you about your opinions, but you should be clear about the words that you’re using and the meanings that they have.

Along the same vein of “you keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means,” technically there are no babies aborted. Fetuses are aborted. This is by definition. It is a bit pedantic to point this out, but I think it is helpful to be clear with our words.

Along that line, I think you meant to use the word “in” instead of “to” in the last phrase of this sentence:

“The NFL is a business, and no team wants to alienate its fans by signing a borderline-serviceable quarterback like Kaepernick that would inspire a vitriolic reaction to so many fans.”

But I personally like the preposition you chose more than the one I think you meant.

Maryam Muhammad
6 years ago

Some protestors have presented their perspective. I suggest you read it. The people who fight for our rights and who have fought in the past weren’t fighting for a flag or an anthem. Any country can have a flag or an anthem. Rather they were fighting for what makes America unique and the free country that it is- the prospect of liberty and justice. Because the players feel that America is disrespecting the values we claim to be founded upon (via systemic racism and discrimination), the players are peacefully and respectfully protesting the flag/anthem.

6 years ago

I wish that commentators of this ilk would stop saying that that the players’ actions of political expression are “disrespectful to our troops.” What is truly disrespectful is failing to grasp that when the military works to protect American values, it is safeguarding rights to expression and freedom of conscience, not a contrived obligation to venerate or salute an inanimate object that happens to have symbolic meaning. As employees of a private-sector entity the NFL players have no protected legal right to do what they are doing, but their willingness to express themselves and risk employment consequences even without that right honors the values our troops fight for far more than a tiresome screed that confuses idolatry with patriotism.