Kneeling for the National Anthem


Adam Cole

Tanner Matthias (in focus), junior, stands on the sideline before kickoff.

With Trump’s surprise victory in the recent presidential election, American politics are more polarized than ever– creating anger and angst that has seeped into almost every facet of our lives.  

Historically, sports have always been an avenue people turn to in order to escape such disgruntled times. In 2010, Japan’s women’s national soccer team served as a beacon of hope during their World Cup victory for a country who was in the midsts of one of the worst recessions in modern times.  Also in 2010, Spain’s men’s national soccer team won the World Cup uplifting a country in the midst of a recession.

Typically, Sunday afternoons have served a similar purpose.  Politics and work aside, sitting down to watch football with family or friends has always brought people closer together; however, this year, even the football field has become politicized.

This season, Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, has made headlines for his actions off the field.  Starting on August 26, in their game against the Green Bay Packers, Kaepernick kneeled as a statement against racial oppression during the playing of the national anthem. He has kneeled during every game since.

Across the nation, other NFL players, college and high school athletes alike, have started to exercise their first amendment rights by kneeling in solidarity during the playing of the national anthem.  No athlete at Topeka High has felt the need to take such a stance.

Discussions about the implications of his actions have arisen.  One side commending his courage for bringing light to a topic that needs to be addressed across the nation, while the other side criticizing his actions, labeling them as disrespectful to veterans.  

“The national anthem means more than race, it represents people fighting overseas and what not,” Lee Jones said. “I think there is a different way he should go towards saying that black needs right other than how he is doing it now.”  

Regardless, his actions have achieved his intended purpose: starting a conversation about race.

Junior Ben Theoni commends Kaepernick for standing up for what he thinks is right citing, “I definitely think it’s to his right, it’s important that he is doing this. As a football player, once he steps off the field nobody cares what he does,” Theoni said. “Kneeling during the national anthem is his only opportunity to make a stand. He is only important when his cleats and pads are on and so that’s why he has to do it then.”