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National Anthem: Kneel or Stand

Saturday+September+30%3A+JU%27s+football+team+honors+veterans+before+home+game+against+Guilford+College.
Saturday September 30: JU's football team honors veterans before home game against Guilford College.

Saturday September 30: JU's football team honors veterans before home game against Guilford College.

Photo courtesy of Jacksonville University Athletics

Photo courtesy of Jacksonville University Athletics

Saturday September 30: JU's football team honors veterans before home game against Guilford College.

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — On Aug. 27, 2016, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel during the national anthem before his team’s game against the Green Bay Packers.

According to an article published by NFL.com the following day, Kaepernick said he meant his kneel-down as a protest against what he believes to be the unfair treatment of blacks and other racial minorities in the United States.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick is quoted as saying. “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street, and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

This act would lead to much more.

Kaepernick was soon joined by 49ers safety Eric Reid and, ultimately, many more league players. One year later, the debate has intensified. Is kneeling during the national anthem a sign of disrespect, lack of patriotism, or a way to spread awareness about racial injustice to minorities?

Communications professor Dennis Stouse, who teaches diversity issues at JU, believes that kneeling during the national anthem may be useful.

The problem, Stouse believes, lies in what he sees as the unjustifiable treatment of the African-American community.  He says that players in the NFL are in the right, and, as ironic as it may sound, he thinks that to stand up for justice, kneeling at football stadiums may be a great way to start.

“It helps shine a light on a major problem in our proud country,” Stouse said.

Not everyone agrees. Some argue that this is a sure sign of disrespect toward the flag and our veterans.

Ian Shields, former football coach at Army and current head coach for the JU Dolphins, says that he will always stand for the national anthem.

“I’ve coached young men who have fought and died for our country in service for that flag. That’s why I will stand for it.”

However, Shields says he understands the reasoning behind kneeling and recognizes the need for equality amongst all.

“I respect that decision and our Constitution protects that,” he said.

Both men say they agree that society needs to fight for unity—almost like a football huddle, where teammates unite for a common goal. Shields explains that football is a great metaphor for our country.

“When that ball is snapped, it doesn’t matter what color you are; everyone must work together in order to reach success,” he said.

During recent hurricanes like Irma and Matthew, people of all races came together and helped each other. When disaster falls, Americans have a habit of providing aid, and skin tone means nothing when it’s go-time, whether on the gridiron or when nature strikes.

No matter what side you may be on, football has proven itself to be more than just a game.

“There’s a lesson to be learned if only we pay attention,” Shields says.

So does Stouse believe a solution will ever be reached?

“That is up to us.”

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