Columns Opinion

Peaceful protest: A beautiful American tradition


Katie Santana/The Cougar

In the midst of protests and questions surrounding the severity of police brutality, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel during our national anthem. Naturally, this action garnered national attention and people labeled him as anti-patriotic, while others deemed him a symbol for those whose voices are silenced.  

Over the weekend, several NFL teams chose to present a united front against President Trump’s comments criticizing the actions of players who refuse to stand during the anthem.

Not only has the message of Kaepernick’s action diluted, but a larger problem is rearing its head — the continuous policing of speech.

At the center of it all is Kaepernick. His intention was to further highlight the perceived tension between the black community and law enforcement. With high-profile killings of black men such as Trayvon Martin and Philando Castile, large sectors of the black community have rallied together, pleading for the justification of these untimely deaths and demanding a change.  

His focus wasn’t on Trump — he began his silent protest before Trump even took office. Kaepernick’s focus is the black community.

It is evident that America is divided. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, 77 percent of Americans believe our country is greatly divided on critical issues. There is an ever-widening chasm separating people from one another based on their personal convictions.

One of the problems surrounding Kaepernick’s controversy is his status. Too often we think that celebrities, athletes and other people of prominence exist solely for our entertainment and not as individuals with voices and strong ideas.   

We pick apart their statements and opinions, expecting them to share our perspective or be completely neutral. While it is true that their status grants them a larger platform, they should not be stripped of their rights because of it.

Freedom of speech is as American as it gets. This concept is the cornerstone of American identity. It is nondiscriminatory — all of us are bestowed this right. We are quick to point this out in online arguments or a heated discussion with a friend. Unfortunately, some over-generalize the uses and privileges this amendment bestows.

Our First Amendment allows us to freely speak, legally assemble and express ourselves how we see fit. There are obvious restrictions, however, such as slander or speech that could incite violence. We can voice our opinions in a fashion that does not harm other members of the community. If those situations are avoided, other restrictions should not exist — at least not from the government.  

This is where it gets gritty. People can voice their ideas in a public forum, but that does not protect them from receiving backlash from their peers. You have the right to boldly express your convictions, but let’s be clear: Not everyone is obligated to agree with you.  

It is not within our jurisdiction to police our fellow Americans’ ideas or how they demonstrate against their frustrations. We do not possess that power, nor should we desire to have it.

People differ in their views, so sensitive topics bring discourse and arguments.

Keep talking, regardless. Discourse is vital to maintain a vibrant and stimulating intellectual arena. Sadly, the concept of a free marketplace of ideas is slowly tapering off, due to myriad reasons, including news and social media.

As a country, if we truly want to reflect and live in accordance with freedom of speech, it is crucial that we stop being so easily offended; rather, we should actively attempt to engage in conversations with others whose views differ from ours.

At the end of the day, I stand by Kaepernick and others who chose to display their frustrations in nontraditional fashions. It’s their right.

Would I take a knee? No, but I surely support those who do, and that’s the beauty of it.

Alana N. Miller is an integrated communications junior and can be reached at [email protected].


  • Why do so many people not understand what the First Amendment even means? It makes one wonder if they’ve ever read entirely documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

    Here it is, in its entirety:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
    prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
    speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
    assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    The First Amendment has to do with government restricting free speech, not corporations or organizations. Do you think that UPS would be fine with their drivers wearing “Make America Great Again” hats? Do you think that Papa John’s would tolerate one of their drivers wearing a Hillary Clinton campaign shirt. Of course not, because it alienates half of their customers.

    The NFL can choose to ignore their own rules, and let their players do whatever they want, but it doesn’t have to do with the First Amendment. In addition, fans can do what they want in response to their actions. Based on the decline of television ratings, fans cancelling sports and NFL packages, etc., many are doing just that.

    • No, I get what you are saying.I absolutely understand that the NFL is allowed to regulate what they’re players are allowed to do. They are a private company.

      What I am trying to focus on is public perception. There is a growing amount of people who disagree with how others choose to exercise their freedom of speech, that’s my focus. Far too many public citizens believe that because they disagree with an individual, another public citizen or individual with prominence, that gives them the right to attempt to hinder other people’s voices.

      Instead of focusing on the action or display it’s self, as a community, it’s essential that we acknowledge the meaning behind taking a knee and any other display. We need to address the problem in a civil way.

      Sorry, if that wasn’t clear

      • It is intigral for the discussion that people are aware the first amendment has zero to do with this. If it was the first amendment there would be no questions protesting is legal. Contract law is much more murky. An employer is well within his rights to discipline an employee breaching contract no matter how noble the cause, so long as the restriction in the contract legal and reasonable.

  • You live by the knee … you die by the knee. The NFL is learning a hard lesson about kneeling and sitting this year.

    Patriotism matters. For those who do take a knee or sit … can you really trust them when the chips are down? If they don’t respect Our Country, Our Flag, Our Anthem. How can they respect you if you don’t take a knee.

    I’ve stopped buying season tickets to the football games when I saw fans sitting during the anthem. But that’s a different story.

    Colin Kaepernick cried racism? Why? He lead his team to the Superbowl … sports writers called him the example of the future. From 2012- 2013 he was gold … he started slipping in 2014, and flopped in 2015 and 2016.

    Kaepernick just turned into a bad player. Somehow he lost his focus on the game, and started sitting during the anthem last preseason before opting to take a knee. And let’s not forget his girlfriend Nessa whom he started dating in summer 2015, which is when this nice clean-cut guy started his activism.

    Apparently, Kaepernick’s only course of action, instead of trying to get his mojo back by improving his play… was to turn to activism. He could have turned to a psychiatrist, but Nessa is admitted prettier and sexier than a psych so he went with his hip and not his head. Well, he went with his head, just not the one above his neck.

    All of this has cost him his contract, which he turned down himself; perhaps billions of dollars in lost revenues to football overall; and a massive nosedive in enjoyment of the game for people who watch football to get away from politicized things that tug at them throughout the week. And now, what do we get when we watch the game, a politicized game; played by some players who have no respect for their ultimate bosses … the fans.

  • Every workplace has restrictions to which free speech does not apply. The NFL has them and has chosen not to enforce them. The fans have chosen not to spend their money.

Leave a Comment