by Kathleen Giffin
On Sunday, October 8, 2017, Vice-President Mike Pence was seen leaving the National Football League stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, after several of the players refused to stand for the playing of the national anthem. President Trump said he was “proud of [Pence]” for leaving, tweeting that the “issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race” but with the apparent disrespect shown towards our soldiers and the nation that they have fought to protect. Trump later triumphantly tweeted that “NFL attendance is WAY DOWN” and that this is due in small part to people being bored at games but also due to the fact that “many stay away because they love our country.”
The protests, which began in 2016 by the 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have evolved from a protest against police brutality and social injustice to a protest against Trump. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who remained in their locker room during the national anthem, clarified that they meant no disrespect towards troops but solely meant to make a statement against Trump. The controversy has been revived with fresh vigor after Trump made the declaration that players who refuse to stand should be fired.
Regardless of how the intent of the protesters is interpreted, there can be no doubt that their actions have brought the discontent and division in our country to center stage. It is now impossible to ignore the fact that there are Americans who feel the flag does not represent them the way in which it represents others. What is to many a symbol of freedom and equality is to them only a reminder of what they cannot obtain. Although the way in which they shared their message is a controversial subject, the message they sent is clear and impossible to ignore. The question remains: How will America respond?