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NFL protests honor longstanding American tradition of first amendment right

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Athlete Protest

Athlete Protest

Athlete Protest


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Anyone who’s paid any attention to American history can explain to you the importance of protest in America’s past. In fact, it’s safe to say America would not exist if not for the act of protest. That being said, this aspect of our history has not mitigated the onslaught of criticism facing the current protests being held by a variety of NFL players. While Colin Kaepernick started to protest during the national anthem in 2016, it is only recently that his protest has begun to gain traction throughout the entire league, where even entire teams have started kneeling during the national anthem as a way of protesting the racial injustice within America.

This is not the first time racial inequality has been protested within the world of sports; back in the olympics of 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos silently protested racism by raising their fists in the air during the awards ceremony for their events. While this was framed as disrespectful at the time, it is nonetheless remembered as an iconic form of protest during the 1960’s civil rights era and now viewed in a positive light.

In many ways, the NFL protests are the spiritual successor to these protests; we are in the middle of a civil rights movement of our own and these acts of protest, while within the American spirit, are criticized just as much as virtually every act of protest during the 1960’s civil rights movement. And just as they were demonized then, protestors are being demonized now.

It is important to note President Trump’s reaction to these protests. He has taken the opportunity to criticize these protestors as disrespecting the nation, troops and the like, going so far as to call them “sons of bitches” during a rally in Huntsville, Alabama. This is just one of many gross actions performed by Trump, but there’s an important idea to understand in his doing so: Black Americans are not allowed to protest.

Allow me to elaborate. Although Black Americans may technicallyprotest, they are unable to do so without there being criticism from virtually all sides. Again, this was seen in the 1960’s civil rights movement and it can be seen now. Marching will be criticized as being an inconvenience on people trying to get to work. Sit-ins will be called a bane on capitalist production. School walk outs, speaking during the Golden Globes, Super Bowl commercials, music videos, appeals after a “Hamilton” performance– anything that isn’t sitting quietly and doing nothing– will be framed as disrespectful, un-American and demonized.

It’s not about the method of protest, it’s about the protest itself. Conservative and moderate America would prefer that marginalized people simply suffered their grievances quietly under the myth that things will improve over the course of time. But that’s simply not the case. Protest is an essential part of political change, and without it we will struggle to achieve any real progress. The NFL protests are as American as apple pie, and their purpose even more so. It’s time we stop criticizing the method and solve the issues that warrant the protests to begin with.

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NFL protests honor longstanding American tradition of first amendment right