The Gesture That Became a Movement

Jacob Smith, Staff Writer

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The most recent culture war in today’s political climate in the United States is the national anthem protest currently being demonstrated by players in the National Football League, and other professional sporting organizations. This is a very emotional topic for people, with essentially everybody having some sort of opinion, however the facts tell a different story about the divisiveness of America and moods about this protest.
The protest first started in a preseason game in the 2016 season. Colin Kaepernick kneeled for the national anthem, to protest police brutality against unarmed African Americans, and took extremely heavy criticism for it. Many people called for him to be required to stand for the national anthem or face punishment from the team or league. When the protest first started in 2016, a polling company called Reuters, and survey monkey, confirmed by CBS Sports, conducted a poll asking the question if they agreed with Colin Kaepernick’s protest, with 72% of people surveyed calling the protest unpatriotic. However, 64% of people surveyed believed that Colin Kaepernick had the constitutional right to protest, and that the NFL should not punish him for the protest. This was just the beginning of the protest, and the divisiveness only increased.
It is not unfair to say that there was consensus that kneeling was bad in the beginning; however, it should not be punished. This was also true in the school poll that the Mustang Post conducted where over 71% of the people surveyed believe that high school athletes should stand for the national anthem, and 69% of people surveyed stated that they wanted professional athletes to stand, but less than half of the people surveyed in Sheyenne High School (49%) believed that a coach or teacher should be able to require a player to stand for the national anthem.
Over time, some would argue this has had a negative effect on the NFL’s ratings, with ratings dropping 7.5% according to Sports Illustrated since September of 2016. This is also backed up by the school poll where 41% of respondents stated that the protest changed their opinion of the athlete that was protesting. Clearly, a perception change occurs when we see athletes kneeling.
As shown with most issues in this country, we are becoming ever more divided along party lines. According to Sports Illustrated, in a poll taken this month, just over 50% of respondents felt that it was the right thing to stand for the national anthem. This division is happening very much along partisan lines. Sheyenne High School, according to our survey, tends to lean right when it comes to political affiliation, when for every person who identified as left-of-center, there was 1.4 people who said that they were right-of-center. Among the people who said they were right-of-center, 92% of those people said that they wished that players would stand for the national anthem, while only 45% of people left-of-center would explicitly prefer people to stand for the national anthem. It is like that for every single question on the Sheyenne High School questionnaire. When asked, “Should teachers and coaches be able to tell athletes to stand?” 76% of people who said they were right of center said yes, while only 9% of people who stated they were left of center said yes. This showing from Sheyenne reflects a deep divide in the attitude of our country which has become more partisan every day.
While the issue of the national anthem may seem like a small issue on the surface, the partisanship and emotion that people show about this issue stems from a deep political divide in our country, which echoes in Sheyenne High School, as the narrative becomes more mean spirited with every politician’s tweet or athletes Instagram post. While the national anthem does not effect the average American on a day-to-day basis, it has become a controversial national issue. They aren’t losing their jobs over this, nor are their taxes being changed, but this issue symbolizes how the United States of America, and the republic for which it stands, is becoming increasingly divided over little things, let alone the important things such as national policy. This unhealthy civil republic may only turn around when we see the goodness in people, even when we disagree.

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