NFL: Is Sitting a Form of Freedom of Speech or Breaking Tradition?
by FreshPrinceofRice on September 12, 2016 - 12:50pm
The article “Colin Kaepernick Takes a Knee in Latest Anthem Protest” (2016) by Greg Beacham talks about how the NFL player Colin Kaepernick (who plays for the San Francisco 49ers) is protesting against different societal problems in American society such as police brutality, oppression and fighting for equality. He does this by sitting down (the first time) and taking a knee while the national anthem plays during the pre-game. This sparked a lot of controversy and many people criticized Kaepernick’s act for disrespecting the U.S. military and an American tradition. People aren’t upset at Kaepernick’s idea for equality but are mad at his acts. This whole controversy has divided the American sport community. Kaepernick continues to kneel for his protest and a few other NFL players are doing so as well to show their support for Kaepernick’s cause.
The ethical issue here is a matter of limiting the freedom of expression. On Kaepernick’s side, he is fighting for the freedom of expression which allows him to protest. The moral principle here is that we should be able to express our thoughts. As mentioned before, on his first protest he sat down during the national anthem which got him criticized for disrespecting the military. This lead him to start kneeling instead of sitting while the anthem played. In a way, this is suppressing Kaepernick’s freedom of speech because of how he had to conform to the critics’ views. Two values on this side would be freedom of expression and individual freedom. The value of freedom of expression allows him to express his thoughts on the injustices in American society without issue while individual freedom allows him to protest without issue.
On the other side, it is not about freedom of expression, but about respecting a tradition. The moral principle on this side would be to follow tradition. When the national anthem plays, people stand to show their respects and their pride for their country. A value on this side of the argument would be tradition. People on this side of the argument would respect tradition. People follow traditions for different reasons, it could be because they grew up with it or because of the symbolism it holds (like how standing during the national anthem symbolizes respect for the fallen). Patriotism would also be another value because of how the act of standing during the anthem represents national pride and respect for the fallen.
In my opinion, it is Kaepernick’s right to sit down during the national anthem if he wants to. He openly said his intent was not to disrespect the U.S. army or America but to protest against what he believes are issues in American society. It is the people’ right to criticize Kaepernick’ act, but do not impose the tradition of standing during the national athem onto him and call him un-American if he does not stand because that is revoking him of his right to express himself. Should a country’s tradition be able to limit one’s freedom of expression?
Beacham, Greg. “Colin Kaepernick Takes a Knee in Latest Anthem Protest” Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CBC, 1 Sept. 2016,
Accessed 10 Sept. 2016.