Letter to the Editor: Athletes are justified in their protesting

Recently, Matt Server, a guest columnist from The Daily Nebraskan, wrote that athletes are not justified in protesting during the national anthem. I disagree with his opinion.

It is very easy to overlook the power of Francis Scott Key’s words in the “Star Spangled Banner.” We have all heard the anthem hundreds of times, and tend simply to recite its words, rather than consider the content of the anthem.

But, if one looks closely at Key’s words, particularly the anthem’s final line, they can recognize that Key is conveying a message central to America’s core beliefs. The anthem depicts the English barrage of Ft. McHenry, through which the Americans persevere. The final line asks: “Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

The final line can be interpreted literally (Key wonders if the Americans have persevered through the English barrage and if their flag is still flying) or metaphorically. I prefer to do the latter.

Again, the final line asks: “Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” It is not a victorious proclamation: ‘We won! The flag still flies and will forever!’ Rather, it is a question: ‘Does the flag still fly over an exceptional country?’

Today, and always, Key’s question is worth asking. Of course, America’s flag continues to fly. But does it fly over the land of the free and the home of the brave? Are we living up to this exceptional standard that we set for ourselves?

NFL players are protesting because America is not living up to its standard of exceptionalism in regards to racial equality.

Colin Kaepernick first took a knee following the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two unarmed black men who were gunned down by police officers. Clearly, Mr. Kaepernick’s protest came with good reason—very little has been done to combat the systemic racism that plagues our country’s criminal justice system and police forces. Black people continue to face unfair treatment in the courts and in society, and unarmed black people continue to be killed by police officers.

Mr. Kaepernick, and those who have joined him, have every right to protest and, unfortunately, have very good reason to do so.

Importantly, however, Mr. Kaepernick was never protesting the flag or the national anthem itself—he used the anthem as a medium to protest police brutality towards black people. So, when you misconstrue his protest as unpatriotic, it is you who is avoiding “healthy dialogue.” Mr. Kaepernick and other black athletes clearly articulate that they are protesting police brutality and racial inequality (read Eric Reid’s Op-Ed in the NY Times), yet you ignore their words and call them unpatriotic. Kneeling is a humbling act and is often a sign of distress. Instead of listening to the cries for help of black people, you have chosen to ignore them.

In your column, you ask us all to attempt to “understand both sides of the argument,” and to not “disregard” anyone’s perspective. I ask you to do the same, Matt.

I assume that you have not been swayed in the slightest by my argument and that you will continue to believe that this protest is disrespectful to our flag and our country. So, with your opinion in mind (i.e. assuming this act is disrespectful to our flag), I want to remind you that our flag is not as sacred as the rights—and the people—that it represents.

Matt Wulf is a junior studying Political Science and Communication Arts. Please send any questions, comments, or concerns to opinion@dailycardinal.com.  

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