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Viewpoint: The Purpose of Taking a Knee

Roger+Harring+Stadium+at+UWL
Roger Harring Stadium at UWL

Roger Harring Stadium at UWL

Callie Heinrich

Callie Heinrich

Roger Harring Stadium at UWL

Callie Heinrich, Sports Reporter

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This Sunday NFL teams across the country knelt, linked arms, or remained in locker rooms during the playing of the national anthem. This sparked heated debate nationwide between supporters and opponents of the act.

Those who oppose the protest see it as an act of disrespect to the flag and the servicemen and women who fight to protect it. This could not be further from the truth. The protests serve as a symbol of unity and defiance against racial inequality and injustice in our country.

However, according to President Donald Trump, “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race”. Which again, could not be further from the truth. Kneeling during the national anthem was originally a continuation of the Black Lives Matter movement and to highlight how black Americans are unjustly treated by law enforcement.

The NFL and its players wanted to portray a sense of unity, by linking arms and supporting love over hate in a time where hate is abundant. Take the violence in Charlottesville protest for example, where a woman died after a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of people protesting Nazism and fascism.

Yet, when faced with peaceful protest of football players and the violent protests of white supremacists, our presidents opt to call the players “Sons of [expletive]” while stating that the events in Charlottesville had “fine people on both sides.”

Acts of such racial hate are even prevalent at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. From white board drawings depicting the lynching of a black man in residence halls to a University Police dispatcher with the telling a minority student to “go back where she came from.”

Moreover, as a university with 89% white students, does UWL truly follow its mission statement declaring it is a campus focused on delivering a challenging, dynamic, and diverse learning environment? I would say no.

However, even with an alarming minority representation, the UWL football team still values the idea of unity. After Sunday’s events, UWL’s football coach, Mike Schmidt met with his team to discuss the NFL protests.

In the meeting Coach Schmidt fully encouraged the players to bring any issues to the team. He noted, “If we are to bring attention to the team, we need to discuss it as a team. That being said, we also agreed that nothing divides our team and we have each other’s backs”.

Schmidt expressed the team’s support and unity by noting, “If something is on one of our player’s hearts then it is affecting the team and that players needs our support. We would fully support any player’s desire to protest in public way as long as we discussed it as a team first.”

So, will we continue to see the protests when we turn on the TV to watch a game? Will fans attending such games stand in unity alongside the players? Will we see protests here on campus? Or even on the football field? If it helps spread the message that love trumps hate and racial injustice is something we need to start recognizing and discussing, then I hope so.

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Viewpoint: The Purpose of Taking a Knee