These days the heated disagreement between President Trump and NFL players is all over the online media. What's wrong with Kneeling and why does he want them not to kneel and why do they still do it?

From where I belong we don't kneel to the anthem (for the record; we have to stand and persons in uniform have to salute) but if kneeling does happen in the US it does not look like something disrespectful towards the anthem. So what's wrong with it?


14 Answers 14


The answer to "what is wrong with kneeling" is symbolism. And more specifically, the question shouldn't be "what is wrong with kneeling" but instead "why do many people see it as wrong"; since there's no objective metrics of what's right or wrong, and the answer may very largely depend on one's ideological postulates.

So, let's answer that second question - why do many people consider it wrong.

First off, I'd like to clarify something which seems to confuse the question poster. It's not the "kneeling" as a physical act itself that is perceived as being wrong.

It's more of "doing anything that is protesting the anthem".

Kneeling is merely a stand-in for "something OTHER than standard etiquette of standing with hand on heart" - and yes, I'm fully aware of the irony of "land of the free" imposing a unified unyielding standard of expressing patriotism.

As such, such a normally-respectful gesture as kneeling (which originated in feudal knights showing respect to their liege), becomes an insult - wholly because of intent, not the form.

(It's also worth noting that at this point some players decided to protest in far less respectful ways, including stretching for the game during the anthem, or deliberately not showing up on the field).

Now, as to why it's perceived as insult:

It's generally[1] considered that showing respect to one's country's national symbols (specifically, flag and anthem) is a show of respect for the country in general, as well as to people in the armed forces who risk their lives to protect the country. And conversely, it's seen that showing disrespect to a country's symbols is disrespecting the country (and, by extension, its citizens). At its root, this is why so many people (~50%) are utterly opposed to, for example, flag burning, despite the fact that there's a clear First Amendment point that flag burning is perfectly fine, being a form of political expression.

[1] - Before people start spouting about "evil capitalism" and "white pride" and "evil Amerikkka" (because Trump is somehow involved), it's worth noting that the concept is NOT uniquely American, and exists in, for example, India, Mexico, and Jamaica, (random Google picks) in pretty much the same form. It also existed in former USSR and probably in the modern Russian federation. I'd be surprised if it does not exist in some form in most countries.

As such, regardless for what motivated the NFL protests, a lot of people in US see taking the knee during the anthem as an explicit deliberate insult to the country. Some people consider that "wrong", regardless of what the protest is about.

To quantify "a lot", let's look at the polls from 2016 (no 2017 numbers aside from one unscientific small poll that I could find):

  • In one poll, which was conducted by Reuters, 72 percent of Americans said that they thought Kaepernick's behavior was unpatriotic. Another 61 percent said that they do not "support the stance Colin Kaepernick is taking and his decision not to stand during the national anthem."

  • all American adults disapprove 54 - 38 percent of athletes refusing to stand during the National Anthem in protest of perceived police violence against the black community, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.

An extra special dose of insult comes from the fact that many people associate American Football with patriotism and the country, symbolically. I suspect the emotional effect would have been far less if it all happened at a real (Soccer) Football game.

Interestingly, there does seem to be some actual blowback to the NFL because of this as per polling:

“Are football fans voting with their TVs?” asks a new Rasmussen Reports survey. “As the NFL struggles to explain this season’s downturn in viewer ratings, 34 percent of American adults say they are less likely to watch an NFL game because of the growing number of protests by players on the field,” the poll reports, noting that 12 percent say they are more likely to watch, while half say the protests have no effect on their viewing decisions.

P.S. As an additional, secondary issue, some people take umbrage at the idea that NFL players—whose multi-million dollar salaries are enabled both by the institutions of the USA and by millions of fans who are offended by the kneeling—are protesting "injustices". It's a lot easier to accept the protest from random Joe Schmoe rather than a multi-millionaire success story, regardless of what the protest is about (this is similar to how people earning $40K react to "sexism affects unequal salaries in Hollywood" protests from actresses being paid millions of dollars—it doesn't matter if they actually are paid less than male actors, or what the reasons are, it still seems utterly hypocritical to many average persons.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Sep 28, 2017 at 4:58
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    In other words, the argument is that there is a "proper way" to show the flag respect, and he is not doing that, thus is not "respecting the flag". Nonetheless, I still stand by his protest. Sep 25, 2018 at 10:35

My answer will focus on the stated reasons for the opposition to the gesture, which mainly comes from the political right.

For context (and to answer why the players do it): The NYT describes the original reason for the gesture:

protest of social injustices, shootings by officers and deaths of blacks in police custody.

The recent actions are likely in response to attacks by Trump on specific players, and to show solidarity with those attacked, but not necessarily in support of the original reasons.

It's disrespectful to the National Anthem, the flag, the Country, and/or Veterans

These are the most often stated reasons for the opposition, and this is also Trump's stated problem with the gesture:

This has to do with respect for our country and respect for our flag.

The Federalist argues:

[T]hese national anthem knees simply come off like people being jerks about the national anthem because they don’t like Trump. [...] [M]any Americans have been viewing these as protests against a country they love.

This statement by Gov. Kim Reynolds is one example claiming disrespect for veterans as reason:

I just think it is so disrespectful to the men and women who have served, and I just would encourage them to get out there and do something [...] let’s not disrespect the men and women who have served to allow us to have the freedom and liberty that we enjoy every day

For someone from a culture without this level of ritualized nationalistic display, kneeling and standing may seem to be equally respectful. Standing is the norm though, so everything else is at least unusual. Seeing it as disrespectful or not is a very subjective issue. Kneeling was chosen as a gesture as to not show disrespect, but that may not be how everyone takes it; the opinions about this are divided, mostly along racial (2016) and political (2017) lines.

Players shouldn't protest for racial justice (like this)

An example for this is this Fox News opinion piece which posits that the reason for the protest is wrong, and that it is hurting the nation's "racial divide":

[S]ports stars like Kaepernick aren’t helping the nation’s racial divide when they take a knee in protest of America’s cops. [... They're] inflaming racial tensions and hatred of our country without justification. [...] Rather than help move the country towards racial harmony, they are stuck in their own fact-free worlds of renegade cops and evil white people. America’s racial agitators choose political agendas over progress.

Instead, they should talk about "stereotypes, biases and how we all might challenge ourselves", specifically by rejecting Black Lives Matter and the "false narrative of killer cops".

Sports aren't the place for politics

This Fox News segment is an example of this:

People watch sports to get away from day-to-day stresses, work, illness, financial worries, we don't need to be reminded of political divisions. All of a sudden football players are lovers of the Constitution and the First Amendment -- you're full of crap.

Some players argue along the same line, specifically pointing out disruption to the teams.

It's an ineffective or unclear form of protest

The Boston Globe cites a veteran arguing along this line:

I don’t think it’s a very effective protest in that you end up spending more time talking about the action itself than focusing on the issues that the players are talking about

The Federalist also argues this:

One of the keys to a good protest is to have a clear goal. If the discussions on Sunday were any indication, nobody is entirely clear what is being protested when athletes kneel during the national anthem.

We can also see this here, where people wrongly assume that players are protesting the flag.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Sep 28, 2017 at 5:03
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    I don't think it would unfair to claim the the publications you cite have a track record of intentionally "misunderstanding" things, then re-packaging them with some serious spin and a dose of outrage/fear designed to make their audience feel comfortable. Given that... Is this really what people think, or is this merely the latest attempt at a distraction?
    – Basic
    Oct 2, 2017 at 17:47
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    @Basic Fox news is the most viewed news station In America. Those that choose to view it presumably agree with a decent amount of what they report. In essence it's quite likely that whatever they are reporting is what a non-trivial percentage of the right feel because they are getting their news and opinions from those reports; and their continued viewership is an acknowledgement that they accept a decent amount of it as accurate or fair representation.
    – dsollen
    Nov 8, 2017 at 22:49

Great question.

As the NYTimes explains, players are kneeling to show solidarity with their fellow players, and in many cases, to protest Donald Trump. Even if someone disagrees with this action, they should support the player's first amendment right to protest.

As for why some consider this disrespectful, historically, people would stand to show respect during the anthem. The kneel is intentional to make a statement and started with Kaepernick last year. Whether we agree that standing shows respect, it is generally considered the etiquette.

Update: woah, did not expect the response on this answer. I used links to support my assertion, which I see suggested on this forum. If you find them biased, this is a view just like mine is.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Sep 26, 2017 at 22:38
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    Regardless of the article, since the kneeling issue started before Trump became president, doesn't that automatically render "to protest Donald Trump" false?
    – Aaron
    Sep 27, 2017 at 16:19
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    @Aaron you'd have to ask everyone who started kneeling after Trump became president, wouldn't you?
    – Darren
    Sep 27, 2017 at 17:54
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    Right now, the only part of this answer that actually attempts to answer the question is this: "As for why some consider this disrespectful, historically, people would stand to show respect during the anthem. [...] Whether we agree that standing shows respect, it is generally considered the etiquette." That's a valid answer, but a little short and low-effort. IMO this answer could be improved by focusing a bit less on its author's personal political views and more on answering the question.
    – Ajedi32
    Sep 27, 2017 at 19:14
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    @Aaron It started pre trump. Trump recently blew up the whole thing and escalated though.
    – Tim B
    Sep 28, 2017 at 9:00

In the US, patriotic tradition holds that you should stand (and remove your hat) during the playing of the national anthem.

On one level, it really is that simple, but to fully understand everything happening now we need some further context:

During the 2016 NFL preseason, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick remained seated on the bench during the national anthem. He did this quietly for several games without attracting attention, but when it was noticed, he explained why he did it:

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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.

Kaepernick's protest, then, was in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, which was started in response to the high profile deaths of (primarily) men of color at the hands of police.

As you can imagine, his actions and his statement garnered a lot of controversy, and in the intervening year other players (and even athletes in other sports) have joined in, sitting or kneeling during the anthem.

At the time, then, those that supported the Black Lives Matter movement (generally) supported athletes sitting or kneeling during the anthem as a symbol of protest, and those that opposed the Black Lives Matter movement (generally) opposed it.

This wasn't universally true, but I think it is an accurate generalization.

Donald Trump, both during his campaign and his presidency, has vocally opposed the Black Lives Matter movement:

Trump has also exchanged jabs with Kaepernick specifically:

In the midst of explaining his actions to reporters, Kaepernick called then-candidate Trump "openly racist."

Trump wasted little time in firing back when asked during a radio interview about Kaepernick's protest.

"I think it's personally not a good thing. I think it's a terrible thing," Trump said at the time. "And, you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try. It won't happen."

This past Friday, though, Trump went even further at a rally in Alabama:

Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He's fired. He's fired!"

Now he's certainly not the first to express this kind of opinion, but it is a little different coming from the "bully pulpit" of the President of the United States.

Trump's statement (and other similar tweets about the NBA) received widespread attention and criticism from many groups. Many players, owners, and teams, even those that hadn't previously taken a position, spoke out in support of their player's rights to express their views. Free speech groups objected to the President appearing to condemn a constitutionally-protected protest. Entire NFL teams knelt or joined arms, or stayed in the locker room during the anthem to signify their disagreement with what the president said.

Note that these actions this weekend were largely about the President's statement, and don't necessarily mean that all those players and owners and coaches are in agreement with Black Lives Matter.

Many veterans, for example, publicly stated that they supported the right to protest, even if they didn't agree with what was being protested.

So there is a lot of talk about free speech, and player contracts, and "honoring veterans", and all sorts of things, but the original reason (police violence and racial justice in the US) is still a major factor in whether people support or object to these protests.

EDIT: Colin Kaepernick's SF teammate, Eric Reid, has written an editorial explaining why they chose to kneel:

I approached Colin the Saturday before our next game to discuss how I could get involved with the cause but also how we could make a more powerful and positive impact on the social justice movement. We spoke at length about many of the issues that face our community, including systemic oppression against people of color, police brutality and the criminal justice system. We also discussed how we could use our platform, provided to us by being professional athletes in the N.F.L., to speak for those who are voiceless.

After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former N.F.L. player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.

It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.

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    This plays at the dog-whistle aspects of it all and is a very valid point.
    – user1530
    Sep 26, 2017 at 21:56
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    @blip Race has explicitly been the stated reason for this from the very beginning, though, so not sure I'd call it a "dog-whistle", per se. But yes, I think to a large degree that people now objecting because of "respecting the flag and veterans" are the same people who would object to BLM protests by any group, in any context. It's a post-hoc justification, not the real reason.
    – BradC
    Sep 27, 2017 at 15:18
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    yes, I agree. To be clear, the dog-whistle politics are coming from those opposing the protests.
    – user1530
    Sep 27, 2017 at 16:57
  • As to Trump's comment "he should find a different country": It's the patriotic duty of every single US citizen to improve their country if they find it lacking, and not move to another country that is better. So can we assume that Trump would move away if he thought things were going wrong in the USA?
    – gnasher729
    Dec 29, 2018 at 18:11

Kneeling is not disrespectful in itself, and seems to be chosen as a less aggressive but clear symbol: It is a protest, the established standard is to stand.

There is not a universally accepted right to protest in all places and times, and there is some reason to think this protest is not the best choice:

  • Our anthem is generally accepted as a symbol of our national unity.

  • It also allows the protest to piggyback off the popularity of the game rather than its own merits, by protesting while wearing a uniform using company arranged media it may give a (not necessarily true) impression of some company official endorsement.

  • Any direct interference with the protest would be expected to interfere with the game. That would probably be political suicide, and with tens of thousands of fans on hand could start a riot.

But none of those reasons are nearly as meaningful as that the current president seems to be protested a lot, and doesn't seem to take it very calmly. His supporters seem to be willing to follow his lead interpreting things as he directs, and he seems to want to have a fight over this.

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    The protest is not against Trump. Sep 26, 2017 at 23:37
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    To the extent that the Kaepernick protest was not specifically "against trump". The action of kneeling and linking arms BEFORE the anthem was played (as on Monday night) was definately "against trump" IMO
    – BobE
    Sep 27, 2017 at 2:45
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    @BobE - I'd agree, mostly. Very few people were participating before Trump weighed in with a transparent attempt to get the participants fired or censured. So it seems fair to view the extra participation in reaction to that as a repudiation of those statements, or at least an affirmation of the protesting players' right to do so.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 28, 2017 at 18:14
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    The timeline would be roughly: Protest police violence -> Trump statement -> Protest police violence + Trump statement.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 28, 2017 at 18:15

These kinds of arguments can be heard about pretty much any protest. The honest reason is that a lot of people just don't like protests, period. Particularly those who currently personally aren't harmed by the way things are.

Back in the Civil Rights era you could hear nearly identical complaints, even for protests that we today view as totally justified, like the lunch-counter sit-ins. A typical example was this letter signed by multiple white pastors calling on an end to the Birmingham non-violence campaign.

Points that were being used to argue against the protest were:

  • He was bringing in non-residents for his actions.
  • The demonstrations themselves were problematic and frivolous.
  • Private negotiation should be used instead of public disruption.
  • He was creating lots of "tension".
  • He was attacking a relatively supportive government before it had a fair chance to help them itself.
  • He was demanding change too quickly.
  • He was breaking laws.
  • He was inducing whites to violence.
  • He was inciting passions in his own people that might be leading to violence on their part.

Many of these arguments are liable to look very familiar to those acquainted with recent actions. This is basically the perpetual menu of anti-protest arguments.

Martin Luther King Jr., who had been jailed for protesting, got so annoyed by it that he wrote a rebuttal and had it smuggled out of the jail to get published.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.


I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action";

...and here's a video from Meet The Press 2 years later where he's answering the same criticisms about holding later demonstrations from a set of white panelists.

If nothing else, he clearly got plenty of practice addressing the same arguments over and over again.


It depends on the person's reasoning whether or not it is disrespectful. For example, perhaps the first professional sports star to refuse to stand was Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf in 1995. His reasoning (13 March 1996 Los Angeles Times) was:

The flag is "a symbol of oppression, of tyranny," he said. "This country has a long history of that. I don't think you can argue the facts. You can't be for God and for oppression. It's clear in the Koran. Islam is the only way."

According to Sports Matters: Race, Recreation, and Culture:

In response, fellow Muslim NBA player Hakeem Olajuan yelled:

Show some respect!

and Shaquille O'Neal said:

Last time someone disrespected the national anthem they talked about them for about 20 years and that was those brothers in the 1968 Olympics, Mexico City

enter image description here

So there is a history of such forms of protest being considered disrespectful and being associated with Black Power.


These days the heated disagreement between President Trump and NFL players is all over the online media. What's wrong with Kneeling and why does he want them not to kneel and why do they still do it?

To add a different perspective (not that the other answers are incorrect) there's also a bit of history with The president v. the NFL:


To summarize the article, Trump has a long history of wanting his own NFL team to the point where some claim he sabotaged a competing league for that very purpose--culminating in a lawsuit he filed against the NFL (which he won...for a grand total of $3).

Though the 'kneeling debate' absolutely started as a reaction to a few players protesting, the President's reflaming of the coals needs to be looked at with a bit of a historical perspective given his past feuds with the league.

  • Consider summarizing the relevant parts from the link.
    – Batman
    Sep 27, 2017 at 20:35
  • @AlexanderO'Mara good call. Attempted to summarize.
    – user1530
    Sep 27, 2017 at 20:52

Judging from people I've talked to - admittedly a limited and possibly unrepresentative set - in most cases, it's not the kneeling itself that people (from Trump on down) find objectionable, it's the reason the players are kneeling. It's the same reason that even in the rare cases when cops are actually charged with a crime for their killings, they are almost never convicted, and then only of some lesser offense than murder. A large number of people basically think cops are justified in shooting people whenever they feel like it.

If the players were kneeling to protest something they agreed with, I think most people would find it perfectly acceptable.

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    "A large number of people basically think cops are justified in shooting people whenever they feel like it." In some parts of the US, a large number of people think that anyone is justified in shooting people whenever they feel like it - if you come across a stranger on "your property", that's the only legal defense that you need if you happen to kill them.
    – alephzero
    Sep 28, 2017 at 10:01
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    Yes, this. And, focusing on this (almost literally) wrapped-in-the-flag flavor of patriotism as the issue intentionally diverts attention from the uncomfortable conversation about structural racism in the United States.
    – mattdm
    Sep 28, 2017 at 12:05
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    @alephzero - "Anyone" who is not black, you mean. Black people are commonly refused legal recourse in stand your ground states, and are shot merely for looking like they have a gun in open carry states. Despite the letter of the laws, if a "right" isn't honored for certain peoples, then those people do not actually have that right. So clearly it is not a common belief that they are allowed to shoot people.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 28, 2017 at 18:46
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    @alephzero: This is incorrect. Having someone invade your house or other property is not "whenever you feel like it", it is something that is brought about by the intruder's actions. Except in a few rare (but highly-publicised cases) the shootings seem to be what any reasonable person would deem self defense.
    – jamesqf
    Sep 29, 2017 at 4:25
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    @ mattdm: Well, that's a different topic. I can only say that if you grow up as a poor white male, as I did, you'll experience pretty much the same treatment from cops. But (as with those Dr. Seuss books today) some people can't see outside their blinders, and turn everything into a racial issue.
    – jamesqf
    Sep 29, 2017 at 4:27

It may start with basic Etiquette, but it ends with the feelings and assumptions. Remember that Etiquette is all about respect.

The established etiquette in the US is that, during the Star Spangled Banner, you should turn to face the flag, stand at attention, hold your right hand over your heart. That's paraphrasing, but that's the basics. The purpose is to show respect for the country and for those who have fought and died for the country.

To deviate from that etiquette is seen as a sign of disrespect for the nation and for those who have served in addition to disrespect for the Symbols. It is the perceived disrespect that gets right up people's noses.

Those who have served in the military (and their families) often see this as snubbing the years of their lives spent serving the country and their comrades and friends who may have died in service to the country. The depth of this feeling can be hard for those who have not served to understand. To many, this kind of disrespect is equivalent to outright saying to those who serve,"Your life and the lives of your comrades means nothing, that you are worthless, or worse, you are evil"

Lets compound the problem by the venue chosen and the people choosing to do it. The NFL's popularity crosses just about every social group out there. That gives the various teams an enormous platform. When someone takes a knee, millions see it. That means that the person taking the knee is, whether it was his intent or not, has just very deeply insulted millions of people. This is where a lot of the outrage comes from.

As I understand, this was mostly started by Kaepernick. He decided to do it as a protest against what he feels is racial injustice, the killing of black men by white police officers and so on. However, he is a man who is making millions of dollars to play a game throwing a mis-shaped ball around a field. That little fact serves to ratchet up the insult felt, especially when you consider that he makes more money in one game than many of those who have chosen to serve will make in several years.

Now lets ratchet things up even more. Entire teams are taking a knee, or staying in the locker room. This makes many feel like the entire NFL is shouting a collective "F*** Y**" to everyone who has actually sacrificed for the greater good of their community.

The venue chosen for the protest further muddies things. You have to dig to find out why they choosing to act this way. They aren't in a position to articulate what they are angry about to their huge audience. They aren't stating their grievance. This poor communication then adds to the feelings of disrespect.

Those in the NFL have the right to freedom of expression. They aren't going to go to Jail for it. However, audiences for those games also have the right to not attend games or watch them on TV. NFL Fans have the right to express their anger at the players for the disrespect shown. NFL owners have the right not to hire Kaepernick if they feel he would be disruptive to the team's brand. Pundits and commentators have the right to express outrage, or outrage at someone else's outrage. Finally, President Trump also has the right to express himself on the issue. That's the beauty of freedom of expression.

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    This definitely explains why some people interpret the action as wrong, but it should be pointed out a lot of this is simply the rhetoric that is being used, and not at all the universal opinion of all service members, or all NFL fans. Agreed that everyone has the right to bitch about things. I think the debate is more about should everyone (namely one person in particular) be using such rhetoric.
    – user1530
    Sep 26, 2017 at 21:11
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    You seem to imply that protest has to be respectful. If so, you have missed the point of protest. Sep 27, 2017 at 11:21
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    To respond to a number of statements: Protest doesn't have to be respectful, but effective protest usually is.. MLK was respectful and he did more for civil rights than 20 al sharptons, Jesse Jacksons, Malcom X's. How should it be handled? by rolling over and letting it stand, hell no!
    – Paul TIKI
    Sep 27, 2017 at 13:22
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    @TomO there are plenty of people that make a whole lot of money whining professionally. But that's besides the point. A lot of people seem to forget the fact that politics were brought into the NFL in the first place via paid advertising.
    – user1530
    Sep 27, 2017 at 20:57
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    Bending the knee is about as close as the human race has to a universal gesture of respect.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 28, 2017 at 14:02

Why do some people take issue with kneeling during the anthem in US?

What I think bothers most people about this is that it is, no matter what justification is used, disrespect towards our flag and anthem. Flags and anthems are thought of symbols of national unity. When you disrespect those symbols you are disrespecting your fellow countrymen to make a political point that could easily and more effectively be made elsewhere. The fact that people who have not only worked long and hard to achieve their current highly admired status in our society but also have benefited mightily from living in a country that allows them to do that now claim to be victims in that society makes what they are doing that much more repugnant.

I, along with many others, do not like for people to disrespect our national symbols of unity. I do not like to see millionaires dishonestly taking on the role of helpless victims.

The team's owner or the league are the only ones who can encourage the players not to do this because of free speech protections. The owners and the NFL apparently do not apparently do not care what the American People think and seem to believe that fans will continue to watch these disturbing political displays and disrespect for the anthem and the flag every week. I think the owners and the NFL will financially regret not working with the players outside the workplace to find solutions to serious problems in our society if this continues.

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    This is a valid answer in that this is how some people perceive the issue. However, saying "most people" is not correct, as there are just as many people that do not believe this and, in fact, would argue peaceful protest is one way to respect what the flag represents.
    – user1530
    Sep 28, 2017 at 17:48
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    "...peaceful protest is one way to respect what the flag represents." Quite true. But it seems odd to me to direct one's protest toward a symbol that represents that freedom to protest! Oct 2, 2017 at 16:16

There is nothing wrong law wise against kneeling, or anything else. It is just an accepted custom codified by law. Here is the relavent part where standing is proscribed in the codified custom:

From US CODE 301 b (1) (c) regarding the playing of the national anthem and there is a flag present

all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart;

This a one of those laws that does not have a remedy or punishment or enforcement, simply what should be done.

The other parts of the law have to do with people in military uniform or military veterans who should also stand but may salute if not in uniform

After thinking about it the analogy that comes to mind is showing up to a Friend's Thanksgiving Dinner with his family and Farting on purpose. No one will arrest you, you a free to fart, but everyone else is made uncomfortable.

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    The source is US Code 301. It is in any law library or on the web Sep 26, 2017 at 18:37
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    This is absolutely technically correct but really doesn't address the issue at hand given all the other variables involved here (the least of which being that most of the people that are complaining are sitting on their couch with a plate of nachos during the anthem...)
    – user1530
    Sep 26, 2017 at 18:41
  • 4
    Wow, The law specifically states that you civilians should stand and I get downvoted because it is not popular? This is a fact, not a feeling. Yes the law has no teeth so you can ignore it with impunity. Sep 26, 2017 at 18:48
  • 8
    @FrankCedeno that's what we're saying. You're pointing out a technically correct fact, but the entire debate has nothing to do with facts. It's all about feelings.
    – user1530
    Sep 26, 2017 at 18:58
  • 23
    It's worth mentioning that the Flag Code specifically calls out certain acts as disrespectful, to include "[t]he flag should never be used as wearing apparel" and "[t]he flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever." Yet those who wear it are patriots and businesses who advertise it are patriotic. It is clear that the Flag Code is not a good source of what is considered proper usage of the flag currently. Sep 26, 2017 at 19:07

You are asking the wrong question. The question you should be asking is why are they kneeling during the anthem, that will allow you to deduce the possible reasons other people would take issue with their kneeling.

They are kneeing in protest (in protest of what is irrelevant).

So, people might have an issue with that because of some combination of (a) they view protesting during the anthem as protesting against the country, (b) they are against protesting during the anthem, (c) they view the protest as counter-productive to the aims of the protest, (d) they are in favor in whole or part of what is being protested, and lastly (e) they view the protestors (nfl players making salaries beyond the hopes of most of the watchers) as entertainers who are slacking off during their performance.

  • I do ask in my question why are they kneeling Sep 30, 2017 at 3:26
  • @HankyPanky: you ask why Trump doesn't want them to and why do they still do it. Which means why do they still kneel, even though Trump doesn't want them too. It's a protest, Trumps public condemnation helps make the protest more effective. His commenting at all (either support or condemnation) is a win for the protestors.
    – jmoreno
    Sep 30, 2017 at 9:07
  • That’s a fair point Sep 30, 2017 at 11:44

Making a political gesture while the US anthem is being played is nothing new. It dates back to the 1968 Olympics, when Tommy Smith and John Carlos gave the black power salute (raised fist) when on the podium as the US anthem was being played... as a gesture to draw attention to the black power movement. This was in the midst of one of the most politically turbulent years in the entire history of the US, that saw Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy shot. There was genuine oppression of minorities in that time. No cherry picking or omission necessary.

The modern take started with Colin Kapernick, remaining seated while the anthem was played at the start of US football games. His answer for this was a protest against a country that oppresses black people.

However, two facts should be noted:

Kapernick is actually mixed race, was raised by a white mother in a fairly comfortable setting. It's not like he was a product of the projects, raised by a welfare single mother, and directly experiencing oppression. As an ace athlete, he probably had a fairly privileged childhood in high school and college, not to mention a substantial NFL salary.

Also, Kapernick didn't start doing this until his performance as a player waned. So it's not like he's sacrificing a lucrative NFL career to deliver a message - his career was fading when he started doing this. His motivation might be to boost future visibility in the face of a waning career, rather than making a personal sacrifice on the courage of conviction.

Lately, a number of players have started kneeling during the anthem. This appears to be because a polarizing president told them not to do this. A good enough reason as any...

Ironically, the person carrying the ball going down on one knee while playing US football brings the play to an end, so one might perceive this as simply the football way of stopping things until the anthem is over.

That's the beauty of 'taking a knee' during the anthem - you can interpret it any way you want.

Personally, I object to this, not out of disrespect to the country, but because I watch sports to get away from politics. When sports people start getting all political, it's not entertainment any more. It's just another dreary, ill considered political message.

  • 11
    This entire answer appears to be an attempt at dismissing the the concerns of the person protesting. (And it's good to remind people that if they don't like politics in football, then they really should have stopped watching years ago after the US Military paid the NFL to get political...)
    – user1530
    Sep 27, 2017 at 18:55
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    @blip - yet you keep praising answers which contain nothing but attempts to dismiss the concerns of the persons disagreeing with the protests. How ironic. (especially since, the question actually asked for point of view of those disagreeing with the protest and in no way shape or form asked for why the protesters are protesting, so those answers you like most don't actually answer the question at all).
    – user4012
    Sep 27, 2017 at 19:07
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    So because someone is doing well themselves they aren't allowed to protest on behalf of other people who are suffering? By that logic you aren't allowed to help someone drowning unless you're also drowning, aren't allowed to donate food to a food bank unless you are starving, aren't allowed to support a cancer charity unless you have cancer...that's a very selfish and short sighted view.
    – Tim B
    Sep 28, 2017 at 9:07
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    "But I'm actually mixed-race" isn't going to suddenly make the scared twitchy cop put his gun down and get all chummy with you, or the passing cabs stop and pick you up after all. "Blackness" in the USA for most purposes is a binary thing, and you don't get to argue your way out of it with a genealogy chart.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 28, 2017 at 13:20
  • 5
    "Personally, I object to this, not out of disrespect to the country, but because I watch sports to get away from politics." - See Martin Luther King Jr's Birmingham Jail letter for why this is worse than actively campaigning against a cause.
    – SGR
    Sep 29, 2017 at 8:19

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