Neligh News and Leader

With millions of viewers each week, there is no question players in the NFL have one of the biggest platforms in the country.

I have been keeping up with NFL for some time now, but the last couple of years have been the most interesting.

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Fransisco 49ers, took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality.

In spring 2017, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers and became an unrestricted free agent, meaning he was free to go to any team willing to sign him.

Some players continued his protest, and in fall 2017, Kaepernick faced issues finding a job while his movement evolved.

Players began linking arms and standing or kneeling, as a sign of solidarity.

Some fans praised the protests, others condemned them, while others didn’t know where to stand on the issue.

Fast forward to present day, when the NFL released a new ruling stating all players have the right to remain in the locker room during the national anthem.

If players choose to stand on the sidelines, they must respect the flag or the team could be fined.

It will be interesting to see how the new ruling will affect the season because I am sure it will bring more questions from players and owners.

Unlike someone who isn’t in the spotlight, players and owners can quickly spread a message throughout the entire country.

Players have used their platform to advocate for various charities and organizations.

Every year, we see the players showcase their causes and organizations during the week called “My Cause, My Cleats” where players design cleats to reflect a favorite cause.

Packers’ Davonte Adams wears cleats supporting those with cystic fibrosis.

Players usually receive praise and support from teammates and fan base.

Colin Kaepernick used his platform to protest police brutality.

He can’t find a team that will take him.

Is the protest why?

Should how he chooses to use his platform matter?

I can’t answer either question because I don’t know the answer, but we need to be thinking about them.

This new ruling will create more problems than solutions.

On one hand, I believe it is important to salute the flag to show support and respect for those who serve and have served our country.

On the other hand, our country was built on the Constitution, in which the First Amendment is freedom of speech, including the right to a peaceful protest.

I think the new ruling forcing players to stand at attention if they choose to stand on the sidelines during the national anthem, is a breach of the First Amendment.

I salute the flag because I believe in what it stands for.

But can I force Kaepernick to salute the flag because of what I believe?

No. 

Forcing players to stand at attention or wait in the locker room is taking away players’ rights to a peaceful protest.

One can argue that staying in the locker room is a protest, but if that is the case, what are a majority of college football teams protesting since most college teams remain in the locker room during the anthem.

For the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the traditional tunnel walk happens after the anthem. 

They aren’t protesting.

So if players remain in the locker room, would fans assume they are protesting?

I don’t think they would.

The ability to send an effective message is gone with this ruling.

Some people see this ruling as a victory toward patriotism, but is stifling a message simply because you don’t agree, patriotism?

It is a form of censorship.

The NFL is taking away a player’s platform to spread a message, which is deleting the message.

All of this because some people don’t agree with what they have to say.

Instead of stifling messages for social justice, why don’t we as a society hear what others have to say?

This issue isn’t going away anytime soon, and with a major platform, it is bound to leak into society as a whole.

When it does, where will you stand?

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