Ethan Smith, Staff Writer
The national anthem has been a long-standing tradition in sports for as long as any fan can remember. The ideal of 53 players and numerous coaches standing on each sideline with a hand on their heart while fans hold and wave a massive flag in the middle of the field is awe-inspiring. When someone jeopardizes that ideal, a problem larger than sports arises.
Even if you are not a sports fan, you have still probably heard of the controversy going on in the NFL right now. The protest of kneeling during the national anthem began with Colin Kaepernick who at the time believed he was being racially profiled and currently believes he is being excluded from employment in the NFL because of racial profiling. Many followed his lead by staging protest rallies for his job, but NFL teams still refused to sign him because of the controversy signing him would elicit. Moving forward to the most recent part of this saga, Donald Trump had a press conference on Sept. 22 in Alabama. After he witnessed a player kneeling during the national anthem before a game, Trump’s profane and harsh comments shocked many and, ultimately, became the last straw in re-sparking what Kaepernick started.
It came as a surprise to Trump that many owners in the NFL and their respective teams contributed to the protests, who believed that his words would pressure the owners who supported him to follow his words and discipline players who kneeled, but it had the opposite effect; the protests outraged some, but ultimately, they showed unity between players, coaches, staff members and owners alike. All the teams did not have the same approach, but they all got their points across.
The Pittsburgh Steelers (excluding army veteran Alejandro Villanueva who stood on the field by himself) stayed in the tunnel during the National Anthem. Later, Villanueva said he felt “embarrassed” about being there by himself, and many stood by him for his act of ‘patriotism.’ Many teams chose to stand, but they locked arms to show their unity as a diverse group of players and coaches who believed in the same cause. Either way, each team had their way of displaying their acts of unity, but each did so in a non-violent and easily noticeable way. For those of you who watch football every Thursday, Sunday and Monday, this topic will linger around for a while. Don’t expect either side, the protestors or the POTUS, to back off from what they believe in.