“Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light.” Since 1931 those ten little words have started off the United States national anthem, but what happens when you can’t see the light? When then does the anthem become just another set of words? This was the case on Friday September 16th when, according to centennial senior Jay Smith, a section of people in the bleachers sat down during the band’s performance of the national anthem at the varsity Central vs Centennial game.
“Centennial had a section of students that wore black and sat down during the anthem yesterday. The theme of centennial was USA and a group of students decided to wear all black and sit, it’s communal.” Smith said.
The silent protest drew inspiration from recent demonstrations made by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick believes the Anthem is representative of a government that oppresses black people and his protests have sparked national controversy. While many people disapprove of how he is going about protesting others have his support. Smith for one understands where he is coming from.
“I understand that he’s speaking up for people who don’t have a voice. He’s kneeling because he doesn’t believe the flag and the anthem stand for him. He believes that when it comes to representing a group of people like him, it doesn’t apply.” Smith said
Many people believe that failing to participate in the national anthem is unpatriotic and disrespectful to people who have served the country. Kaepernick is not stubborn. After much backlash for sitting during the Anthem he changed his mind and switched to kneeling to show respect to those who served.
Kaepernick said during an interview that “his national anthem protest is not meant to denigrate police, military or the country, but rather to bring attention to what he sees as failings in the United States.”
“For one it’s hypocritical.” Smith said when asked about Kaepernick’s naysayers “You can’t like try and take away someone’s first amendment rights. You can’t say ‘you’re using your first amendment rights wrong’, standing up…or sitting down for what you believe in, that’s as patriotic as it gets.”
It seems everyone is taking a stance on the matter, even some of our high school players. Central senior and running back Josh Parker had some things to say from an athlete’s perspective.
“As a football player, I think Colin’s decision is definitely bringing a lot of hate toward him which would be bad for his career. However, the fact that he’s risking this shows his effort is making a change, which is always positive.”
As for Parker’s opinion on whether or not Kaepernick is being disrespectful he said that the fact that Kaepernick is choosing to demonstrate in a peaceful way rather than making a huge spectacle inherently has some respect to it, even if the action itself is still controversial. He thinks protests like this could spread into high schools as well.
“I do think this could happen happen at the high school level. I think it’d also bring attention to the situation and would test a lot of coaches as well as beliefs.”
Whether people agree with Kaepernick’s actions or not one thing is true, he has definitely sparked a conversation at both the national and local level. Both Jay and Josh agreed that there is undoubtedly a problem between African Americans and the system they exist within but that doesn’t mean discussions like the ones Kaepernick raises can’t be had.
“Right now we can all agree that tensions between African Americans and the federal government is intact and common courtesy and respect is fading away between the two.” said Parker “However, I am hopeful and positive that change will come.”