Nearly every media platform has featured NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem. Given the political and social controversy of the events, it is clear that the American people are divided in their views. So, what does the Rollins community think? Student athletes from various teams give interesting opinions regarding the topic.
For the fourth Sunday in a row, football players around the country have taken a knee, risen a fist, or locked arms during the playing of the National Anthem. Many consider the platform inappropriate, while others see it as the most effective option. Some say they are disrespecting American soldiers, while others clarify they are not protesting the flag or the anthem specifically.
“I think it is amazing what they’re doing,” shared Talia Kentoffio ‘21, a member of the Rollins softball team. “My aunt fought in Afghanistan, and I know for a fact she would be so pissed if she knew my stance on this, but she is also not an African American girl living in this society.”
The protests began last year, when a solitary Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers refused to stand during the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ This season, however, more and more athletes have knelt with Kaepernick to protest police brutality and the oppression of people of color in America.
“The players are not protesting America and white people, they are just trying to show that they will not support what America is doing and who is running it.” Kentoffio continued.
Sam Philpot ‘18, captain of the men’s basketball team, sees the protests differently, though. “If there is one common denominator we share, regardless of creed or color, it is respect and appreciation for the troops who risk their lives to protect our country. I believe there are much more appropriate venues to voice against injustices than during an anthem commemorating their lives.”
Albert Del Sol ‘19 added onto this, believing that it is “outrageous, anti-American and disrespectful for the people that serve for our country.” At the same time, Albert can see the other perspective. He stated, “Yes, I understand there is social inequality in the world but I personally think it should not be displayed during the national anthem, I find it disrespectful.”
Philpot and Del Sol’s stance is one that millions of Americans take regarding the issue, including President Donald Trump. Trump made a statement at a rally in Alabama, saying, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired.’” Players have made formal statements against Trump, but many others have simply tried to clarify their overarching message.
Aaron Rodgers, quarterback for the Greenbay Packers, said, “It’s never been about the national anthem. It’s never been about the military,” he said. “We’re all patriotic in the locker room. We love our troops. This is about something bigger than that — an invitation to show unity in the face of some divisiveness from the top in this country.”
Andre Nansen ‘19, member of the men’s soccer team, said, “I feel like they are simply exercising their first amendment right and also, they’re sending a good message. They are protesting the institutionalized racism in this country, implicitly accepted by the President himself, as he rarely makes a stance against white supremacists.”
Entering the first week of NFL play, Kaepernick was unsigned, proving his political stance heavily impacted his football career. When Rollins athletes were asked how they would react to a teammate taking a knee, some were supportive while others did not see it as being an effective outlet.
Philpot said, “If a Rollins athlete decided to kneel, that is his or her own prerogative, but I am not sure how the message would resonate at this level.” Nansen agreed and noted his respect towards anyone who chooses to kneel, but added, “I think the reach of that protest would be quite limited compared to the professional players that have thousands of people watching.”
Kentoffio, on the other hand, said, “Honestly, if any teammate were to take a knee, it would probably be me and I would want my coach to support me. She does not have to agree, but she should let me feel how I feel without any judgement, because honestly, she put me on the team for my softball skills not my political views.”
Whether individuals agree with the protests or not, nobody can deny the fact that everyone is talking about it. When discussion occurs, progress is made on both sides of the argument.