By: Kaylah Jackson
President Trump took to the podium Friday night in Huntsville, AL to rally supporters, but what followed his frequent inciting language to “Make America Great Again,” was an attack on NFL owners, challenging them to fire players who chose to kneel during the National Anthem and referring to those players as “sons of bitches.” Immediately after the rally, the president put out a series of tweets aimed at both the league and its players, calling the kneeling “disrespectful.” Contrary to what many of these players and team’s press releases stated, the general public — President Trump included — continued to insert veterans into the conversation, despite continued efforts to center the focus towards the value of black lives in the eyes of public safety officials.
Since Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel about a year ago (and has since remained unemployed by the NFL) in an attempt to spread awareness and encourage action surrounding issues of racial tension across the United States, other NFL players such as Martellus Bennett, Brandon Marshall and Kenny Stills among numerous others, joined their fellow athlete in his silent protest.
What followed the president’s intense remarks this weekend, was an even larger display of this silent protest from all professional sports: The Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Sparks chose to stay inside the locker room during the national anthem and Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland Athletics, the first MLB player chose to kneel during the anthem.
As comments on both sides of the kneeling debate grew, many veterans tweeted their thoughts with various hashtags including #takeaknee, #standforouranthem, and #Istand
A popular veteran service organization, The American Legion even released a statement in response to this weekend’s events saying “The leader of the nation’s largest veterans organization characterized professional athletes and other Americans who fail to show respect for the national anthem as “misguided and ungrateful.”
“The American Legion is one of the original architects of the U.S. Flag Code,” said Rohan, a U.S Army veteran. “That code was produced by 69 patriotic, fraternal civic and military organizations in 1923. It included members of all political parties, big labor, industry, and minorities. The code calls on all present to stand at attention while the anthem is played. It wasn’t political when it was written and it shouldn’t be political today. Having a right to do something, does not make it the right thing to do. We salute Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, who stood alone respecting the flag as his teammates stayed in their locker room. NASCAR also deserves credit for their support of our anthem. There are many ways to protest, but the national anthem should be our moment to stand together as one UNITED States of America.
As the NFL season continues and presumably these protests, veterans and current service members will continue to voice their beliefs on behalf of themselves and their service.