Source: The Atlantic (Matt Dunham)
Source: The Atlantic

Matt Dunham


Why do athletes kneel for the National Anthem?

December 18, 2020

In recent years, kneeling for the national anthem has become more controversial than ever. In 2016, National Football League (NFL) star Colin Kaepernick took a seat for the National Anthem to protest against injustice, oppression and police brutality in the country. While the NFL claimed that “players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem,” there was a national mixed reaction to the actions of Kaepernick that would directly correspond to racial injustice in the years to come. 

Not only does kneeling have to do with racial injustice, it can also involve politics vastly. The Kaepernick scandal divided the country. While Liberals favored Kaepernick’s viewpoints as a protest against injustice, Conservative media saw kneeling as disrespectful to the country and the flag. Now in 2020, the kneeling debate is back and in full swing. Since George Floyd’s death in May 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement has received immense attention, along with taking a knee. Taking a knee has become a common sight at demonstrations and protests of the 2020 Black Lives Matter Movement.

Kaepernick kneeling for the National Anthem for two weeks until the media noticed, and many were not happy. According to an article by, “With this statement, [Colin] Kaepernick seems to make it pretty clear that he intended to preach against the messages of the flag, implicating the flag in the alleged injustices of society.” This article first mentions the views of non-Republicans, then it is mentioned again what Republicans think of this issue. “Those against the Take a Knee Movement believe that to protest the flag over a single issue takes away from the history of our nation’s struggle to achieve the level of freedom we now enjoy.” 

For the athletes that partake in it, kneeling or sitting during the National Anthem is a sign of peaceful protest against the injustices and oppression in the United States of America. For years before the divide, kneeling had been a signal of prayer or respect. Oftentimes now, kneeling at the flag is a sign of respect for fallen war heroes and veterans. Additionally, kneeling or sitting during the anthem is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

To the opposing eye, kneeling and sitting during the country’s anthem shows a huge amount of disrespect to the nation and the people who died fighting for it. According to, in 2018 United States President Donald Trump stated in a tweet that anyone who sits during the National Anthem should leave the country. In Trump’s tweet from May 24, 2018 he wrote, “You have to stand proudly for the National Anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there, maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.” 

While kneeling during the anthem originated with athletes, the recent stir between political parties has caused an incredibly tense divide between justification for standing or sitting for the Pledge of Allegiance. In high schools, some teenagers take a stand against injustices in the country and defend their position by sitting during the Pledge of Allegiance. Others will strongly disagree. Suncoast’s football team gets further into their season during these controversial times, and players take a stand on whether or not they will be standing for the National Anthem and why. 

“I stand for the National Anthem. But yes, I agree with Kaepernick’s stand on sitting for the National Anthem. It’s a way to peacefully protest his beliefs and his influence is big on a lot of athletes,” senior football player Darius Runner said.

Once again, the politics behind these differing opinions result from the tense divide between political views, a result of the 2020 presidential election and the controversial events that led up to it. Kneeling for the national anthem will always be a topic with two disputable sides, but for now, students will continue to stand up‒or sit down‒for what they believe in. 

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