Hand over heart, members of CCHS football team stand together, showing respect for the flag before taking the field at a recent contest.

Photo by Bella DeRosa

Hand over heart, members of CCHS football team stand together, showing respect for the flag before taking the field at a recent contest.

Is kneeling healing?

As many Americans know, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has protested police brutality and racial inequality by kneeling during the national anthem. In recent months, the media has put a brighter spotlight on his kneeling, causing a national controversy.

As football players across the National Football League joined his protest, high school students have  followed in his footsteps, prompting the Cathedral Catholic High School administration to address the issue.

CCHS principal Mr. Kevin Calkins recently sent out an email informing the CCHS community that school athletes will uphold their respect for the country and military by standing, hand over heart, during the Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem at all athletic contests.

“Since this has been such a pressing issue, and because many other schools have begun making statements on their view, I began to get inquires on how Cathedral would address it, which is why I decided to reaffirm that everyone shall continue to stand,” Mr. Calkins said. “The Cathedral staff and community have all been pretty supportive of our approach. The majority of feedback was positive.”

Many CCHS students seem to be onboard with the policy as well.

“It’s not that they don’t have the right to kneel, it’s just disrespectful to those who died for our flag and what it stands for,” said Patrick Breen ‘19, a CCHS student athlete who feels strongly toward this issue and supports Mr. Calkin’s reaffirmation. “The U.S. is the only country that will pay them millions of dollars to play football, and if they don’t think our country is just and fair, have them try to live in other countries, where the death toll from starvation, disease, or war are much higher than police brutality or inequality.”

Although most of the CCHS community may be in favor of this approach, a great deal of Americans are not.

In  fact, a group of protesters marched in late August outside the National Football Association New York headquarters, demanding freedom of speech for all players, recognition of pressing social injustices, and active programs to help struggling communities.

Most of Kaepernick’s supporters are racial minorities who feel victimized in today’s society.

“People are kneeling for what they believe in, and what they stand for,” Joseph Goncalves ‘18, a CCHS football player and supporter of Kaepernick, said. “They aren’t bothering anyone. They’re just peacefully protesting. We have a purpose behind kneeling, and it’s not to disrespect our soldiers, but to show our nation how we truly aren’t really living in the land of the free.”

As pressing as this issue is, the setup of the protests begs the question, what do race and police brutality have to do with the national anthem?

“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 explained in an interview with NFL.com. “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.”

The police force was instituted to prevent and aid all crimes, and if Kaepernick has an issue with the way forces are run, wouldn’t his efforts be better spent working hand in hand with police to fix this issue? Many people think kneeling to the song of our country does not directly fix or institute any policies that will better our police forces or lives.

I concur.

Before saying anything more, it must be addressed that Kaepernick, like all Americans, has the freedom of speech, one of our founding principles. With that being said, as a professional athlete and celebrity, Kaepernick has a duty to all his fans, young or old, big or small, man or woman, to present himself appropriately and respectfully.

The correlation between these issues and our national anthem is barely existent, and it has caused more attention to his disrespect of the flag than the cause he is trying to promote.

“Once again, I’m not anti-American,” Kaepernick said. “I love America. I love people. That’s why I’m doing this. I want to help make America better. I think having these conversations helps everybody have a better understanding of where everybody is coming from.”

His argument may seem sound, and although Kaepernick deserves respect for standing up for his beliefs, Americans must look at the obvious.

The red and white striped piece of cloth is a symbol of our freedom, and it is downright disrespectful to undermine that freedom by contradicting its validity. If it wasn’t the most important physical object to the American culture, it would not be used to cover the caskets of our fallen soldiers, who died so we could have the freedom that Kaepernick disregards. He claims to be kneeling to better America, yet the repercussions so far have only caused more division.

He is protesting segregation with even more segregation.

What happened to bettering all lives, working as a united force to better our society, fighting for ALL lives, not just racial minorities. Wouldn’t his time and energy be better spent meeting with inner city school boards, government leaders, and police chiefs? Kaepernick may be spreading awareness and starting conversation, but nothing more has come. If someone is going to protest this loudly, he or she better advocate for some concrete solutions.

Yes, Kaepernick did consider the opinion of one military veteran before kneeling the first time, and there are many other soldiers on his side, but according to NFL.com, more than 70 percent of Americans find his efforts unpatriotic, which include 40 percent racial minorities.

The CCHS community cannot disregard the role that discrimination plays in modern society. The administration has decided to combat this issue by instituting a task force specifically to fix injustices around campus.

“The task force is still in the beginning stages, but our efforts will not be simply a response, but a year long attempt to move forward as a community,” Mr. Calkins said. “The whole thing was [Bishop McElroy’s] idea, who is working hard to eliminate all racial injustices.”

“The U.S. may not be perfect, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the best country on earth,” Breen said.

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