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.


I am commenting on your text because the title was appealing and because I liked the way you organized your ideas and your moral claims. I totally agree with your opinion. I think that he has chosen the best and most peaceful way to protest. I also find it very honorable to denounce issues such as police brutality or social inequality. I don’t think he is less patriotic and loves less his country because he doesn’t agree to some actions that are being taken by the United States. I actually think the opposite. I think that disagreeing with some practices is showing that he cares about the future of his country and wants it to be a better place for everybody. Both of the causes that Kaepernick defends are part of the moral claim of equality, which I think is very important, especially in the multicultural society that we are part of. I think that people should look at the second degree of his actions, instead of judging them at first sight. Is the silence given by the members of Kaepernick’s team a sign of patriotism or corruption towards the NFL’s belief system?

To answer your question, the silence shown from some of Kaepernick's teammates and even players in the NFL happens for a multitude of reasons. One reason (and what I feel is the biggest reason) is because some coaches disagree with Kaepernick's actions so they bench any player who kneels during the anthem which would scare some player away (i guess you can call it corruption). Another possible reason would be that they don't approve of Kaepernick's actions so they don't really have a reason to speak up. The last reason I can think of is that the players are just trying to avoid any controversy which could potentially damage their reputation.I hope that answers your question.

Your post clarified well the issue and it made me understand better the situation that happened during the national anthem of one football game this year. I think Colin Kaepernik, as you wrote in your post, had all the rights to stay seated during the national anthem and especially for the reasons he did it. Yes, as some may say, it's not respectful to do so but it's definitely his choice not stand up while the pre-game national anthem plays. The football player is not in accordance with America's values and he has the right not to sing the national anthem if he does not believe in its words. Of course it went viral in the US and it is understandable, but honestly, I think people were just surprise to see someone 'stand up' for its believes and for what he thinks America is truly doing for its population, in front cameras. In my opinion, people make it a bigger issue than what it really is and I often like to use the expression, "Live and let live", which, in this case, is appropriated.

I'm glad you agree with me, I agree with you that people tend to make big deals out of small topics.. It mostly comes down to how the media reports their topics.