Is there a Knee-d to Stand or Sit?

What do Grady students think?

NFL players protesting during the pre-game National Anthem is a phenomenon that has divided Americans and caused nationwide controversy. Though the subject has captured the attention of high schools like Grady, a recent poll shows that students at Grady are not as divided over the issue as one might imagine.

Former San Francisco 49ers NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the demonstrations by taking a seat during the national anthem during the first three preseason games of the 2016 season. He then took a knee, a trend that spread across the NFL. While it began with protesting police brutality, it has stirred into resistance of President Donald Trump and individual interpretations of the flag.

Of 115 Grady students polled by the Southerner, 90 percent support the NFL protest. Many said sports players have a constitutional right to express themselves and that they are protesting for a good cause.

While the seniors were the only grade to have a full “yes” consensus in support of the protest, they were also the only grade polled with a majority believing that the protests would not be effective.

Senior Miles Pearlstein, a supporter of the NFL kneeling, thinks NFL should unify for better results.

With Kaepernick and the other first few players who knelt, the message of protesting police brutality was pretty clear, but now it seems the focus of some of the protesters has turned to Donald Trump and other issues,” Pearlstein said.

Donald Trump, in a Sept. 22 campaign rally for Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange in Alabama, urged NFL team owners to fire players for kneeling and purportedly disrespecting the flag.

“That’s a total disrespect of our heritage,’’ the angry president said of the players’ protests. “That’s a total disrespect for everything we stand for.”

The predominately white audience applauded Trump’s message. Trump also took to Twitter to address the controversy.

“The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race,” the president tweeted. “It is about respect for our Country, Flag, and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”

Some Grady students have an adamant opinion on this issue.

I think that the football players are protesting because they believe there is systemic discrimination against black people in the United States,” junior Eric Slovensky said. “They hope that their protest will lead to more awareness about this issue and lead to a positive change.”

From the 105 students polled, 5 percent were unsure or did not care about their stance on the NFL protests. Only 5 percent did not support the kneeling.

“I do find these protests slightly disrespectful,” Slovensky continued. “I know that the protesters do not mean harm or disrespect, but it seems unpatriotic and slightly rude to the people who serve our country to not stand for the national anthem, an anthem that represents freedom and equality.”

Kaepernick is currently a free agent, despite his start in Super Bowl XLVII for the San Francisco 49ers. People believe Kaepernick is no longer signed to a team because of his political views and the “negative attention” he might bring to an organization; he was voted the most disliked NFL player at the start of the 2016 season. After the Kaepernick protest, Sporting News found that a third of NFL viewers decided not to watch games as a result.

Kaepernick recently released a statement saying he plans to sue NFL owners for colluding against him. The case has yet to be litigated.

Trump is also under fire for other comments on professional athletes, specifically a clash with Stephen Curry, point guard for the 2017 NBA champion Golden State Warriors. After Curry hesitated in September to visit the White House for the annual NBA Champions White House visit, Trump immediately withdrew the invitation. The incident sparked more drama as Cleveland’s Lebron James and other star athletes shot back at Trump on Twitter.

Even the Atlanta Falcons have joined in the protests. Before the Falcons played the Detroit Lions on Sept. 24, owner Arthur Blank locked arms alongside the team during the national anthem. The protests spread beyond the NFL. Baseball and basketball professionals have now joined in this stance. Some teams collectively decided not to go on the field when the protests were early in the season. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks remained in the locker room as the anthem played in September for some games..

The protests have even become an issue locally with five cheerleaders from Kennesaw State University taking a knee and the school asking them to remain in the tunnel out of view during the anthem at subsequent games. Softball players from Cedar Grove High School took a knee during the team’s playoff game at Calhoun in October, making local news casts.

More recently, NFL owners, executives and the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) met in New York the second week of October in response to the protests taking place across a multitude of professional sports. The league reiterated that it expects players to stand for the anthem, while acknowledging social issues important to players should be addressed. The NFL and NFLPA have pledged to meet again soon, so as to figure out next steps in the matter at hand.

However, it only seems fitting that our country would be at this crossroads right now, since there are so many conflicting views on so many topics. Even though Grady prides itself on being a microcosm of our society, we all know we are a small representation of a much bigger picture.

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