Take a Knee and Listen Up

Illustration By Andrew Khanian

Illustration By Andrew Khanian

We are now almost half way through the National Football League season, which has been plagued by many franchise players already out for the rest of the season due to injuries. However, all of this has been overlooked by the most craziest category; players who kneel during the national anthem.

We are talking about professional football players kneeling during the national anthem, made popular last year thanks to Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the anthem to protest the racial injustices in the African-American community, primarily focused on unarmed black men who had been killed by police officers.

Last year, I found myself in some very heated debates and even interviewed by mainstream news media because I supported Kaepernick’s movement. You are probably wondering why it was even worth their time to interview me. It is because I am a proud veteran who served from 2003-2009 in the United States Army. I have heard so many times that I should be offended by what is happening in the National Football League. I heard it as a slap in my face to see millionaire athletes on their knees disrespecting our flag and disrespecting my brothers and sisters in arms who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

First things first, who exactly do you think you are to tell me how I should feel and what should and should not offend me? The only thing that slapped this face is a smile. I am glad this movement is beginning to take off fiercer than ever. In an attempt to shame the African-American community, the president’s words backfired on him and opened up even more people’s eyes. The only upsetting thing to me was that it took this long.

My brothers and sisters gave that sacrifice for this country -- one we call the “land of the free.” Freedom of speech is the only thing being practiced by the NFL player, in a peaceful manner at that. We, the veteran community, are now being used by many people, including the president, as puppets on a string in this topic. I can assure you that there are many of us who are standing, or kneeling, for this message and supporting all those who are demonstrating.

I can also say I know some veterans who are against the protest, but guess what? That is their American right to believe as they please and I am not going to shun them for it. Just as I am entitled to my left leaning opinions, I have to remember others have the same right. My main argument is this: the president smeared a Gold Star family of a Muslim soldier who gave his life for our country. This man suggested that former Prisoner of War, John McCain, was not a war hero because he was captured. This man has multiple draft deferments. Now, all of a sudden, he wants to tell me what should offend me as a veteran? That, to me, is more offensive than anything any of these football players have done these past couple weeks.

If something offends you, that is fine. Speak out against it, let people know why it offends you. But how dare the president, or anyone, tell any veteran how they should feel or use us as propaganda. We have enough issues going on in the veteran community for us to have to now worry about this. We all need to remember one important thing though, what these protests are about. This is still about the treatment of the African-American community and the undeserved treatment they continue to receive. This is not about the president. He has highjacked this epidemic and made it about him. We need to work harder as a country to ensure that everyone is treated equally. It starts with us. It starts with just a friendly hello and treating your neighbor with the same love, respect, and kindness that you wish for every day. That right there is more gratifying and rewarding than a “Thank you for your service.” That is a country that we are proud to serve.

My drill sergeant always told us in boot camp “Take a knee and listen up,” maybe it’s time we all started doing this. So, when something new begins to trend, let us keep this in mind.