Veterans at Oklahoma Christian react to NFL players taking a knee during national anthem

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While taking a knee during the national anthem is, to some, a symbolic protest, standing for the national anthem is also a symbolic right to many veterans and citizens.

According to the Denver Post, Colorado Christian University students are required to stand during the national anthem and prayer, because it is a private institution, the code of conduct, which is signed by every student, can require students to behave within set guidelines.

Colorado Christian’s decision is a result of professional athletes taking a knee in protest during the national anthem, sparking controversy between the NFL, President Trump and many organizations.

The movement began in August 2016, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose not to stand for the national anthem. Kaepernick said his actions were in protest of minority treatment in America and police brutality.

This protest led to several NFL players taking a knee in support. According to Global News, fans and military members said the protests were disrespectful to the flag and the U.S military.

Air Force veteran and Professor of International Management and Human Relations at Oklahoma Christian Don Drew said it is important to listen to the message Kaepernick was trying to communicate rather than arguing about how he made his point.

“Do I think everyone should stand?” Drew said. “Yes, I do. I love our country and I think we should pay respect to the national anthem. Kaepernick took a personal risk and when one man does that alone, I think it’s brave.”

Although Kaepernick is not playing in the NFL during 2017-18, a small number of players have continued his protest by kneeling during the national anthem, some even raising a fist.

According to the Associated Press, only six players were protesting until the weekend of Sept. 24, when the president issued several comments and tweets about the issue.

When speaking in Huntsville, AL Sept. 22, the president used obscenities to describe players who sit or kneel in protest during NFL games. Later, the president tweeted players should be fired and were disrespectful if they chose to kneel instead of stand. He encouraged his supporters to leave the stadium if they see a player protesting.

Drew said the president changed the conversation into a respect and disrespect narrative rather than the initial reason, police brutality.

“I think now that everyone is protesting, it has become a contest between athletics and the president,” Drew said. “You have the president saying it has nothing to do with race and the NFL saying it is about nothing but race.”

On Sept. 24, over 200 athletes knelt, raised their fists or stayed in the locker room in response to Trump’s comments. Meanwhile, some teams, such as the Dallas Cowboys, joined arms with other players, coaches and owners as a sign of unity. This mass protest led fans to burn NFL gear, speak out on social media and protest the NFL, arguing athletes should be forced to stand.

Although Daniel Lawrence, veteran and student at Oklahoma Christian, said he understands the point of the protest, he said the timing is disrespectful.

“Would you protest a funeral?” Lawrence said. “Hopefully not. A lot of people have died for those freedoms and I don’t know why you would want to protest during a time honoring those who have died for your freedom to do so.”
Drew said freedom of speech is essential to the nation, since the U.S. is one of very few countries with this freedom and it is important to protect it.

“We seem to have forgotten, as a nation, the rights of the constitution,” Drew said. “Our constitution is designed to protect us from our worsts parts. What they do with those rights is up to them. What is used to curb free speech in one area can also be used to curb free speech in another. The tools that we use to keep someone from saying something we don’t agree with that is important are the same tools that can keep us from saying tomorrow what is important.”

Both Lawrence and Drew said the protest during the national anthem is disrespectful and do not support it. The protests spread from the turf to the basketball court and led to conversations across college campuses about freedom of speech.

Student athlete Addy Clift said she understands why the protests are happening but does not think it would happen at Oklahoma Christian.

“I don’t think that kind of negative energy is on campus,” Clift said. “As an athletic community, we all feel loved and well taken care of. But everyone has their opinion.”

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