Why do some people take issue with kneeling during the anthem in US?

  • These days the heated disagreement between President Trump and NFL players is all over the online media. What's wrong with Kneeling and why does he want them not to kneel and why do they still do it?

    From where I belong we don't kneel to the anthem (for the record; we have to stand and persons in uniform have to salute) but if kneeling does happen in the US it does not look like something disrespectful towards the anthem. So what's wrong with it?

  • user4012

    user4012 Correct answer

    4 years ago

    The answer to "what is wrong with kneeling" is symbolism. And more specifically, the question shouldn't be "what is wrong with kneeling" but instead "why do many people see it as wrong"; since there's no objective metrics of what's right or wrong, and the answer may very largely depend on one's ideological postulates.

    So, let's answer that second question - why do many people consider it wrong.


    First off, I'd like to clarify something which seems to confuse the question poster. It's not the "kneeling" as a physical act itself that is perceived as being wrong.

    It's more of "doing anything that is protesting the anthem".

    Kneeling is merely a stand-in for "something OTHER than standard etiquette of standing with hand on heart" - and yes, I'm fully aware of the irony of "land of the free" imposing a unified unyielding standard of expressing patriotism.

    As such, such a normally-respectful gesture as kneeling (which originated in feudal knights showing respect to their liege), becomes an insult - wholly because of intent, not the form.

    (It's also worth noting that at this point some players decided to protest in far less respectful ways, including stretching for the game during the anthem, or deliberately not showing up on the field).


    Now, as to why it's perceived as insult:

    It's generally[1] considered that showing respect to one's country's national symbols (specifically, flag and anthem) is a show of respect for the country in general, as well as to people in the armed forces who risk their lives to protect the country. And conversely, it's seen that showing disrespect to a country's symbols is disrespecting the country (and, by extension, its citizens). At its root, this is why so many people (~50%) are utterly opposed to, for example, flag burning, despite the fact that there's a clear First Amendment point that flag burning is perfectly fine, being a form of political expression.

    [1] - Before people start spouting about "evil capitalism" and "white pride" and "evil Amerikkka" (because Trump is somehow involved), it's worth noting that the concept is NOT uniquely American, and exists in, for example, India, Mexico, and Jamaica, (random Google picks) in pretty much the same form. It also existed in former USSR and probably in the modern Russian federation. I'd be surprised if it does not exist in some form in most countries.

    As such, regardless for what motivated the NFL protests, a lot of people in US see taking the knee during the anthem as an explicit deliberate insult to the country. Some people consider that "wrong", regardless of what the protest is about.

    To quantify "a lot", let's look at the polls from 2016 (no 2017 numbers aside from one unscientific small poll that I could find):

    • In one poll, which was conducted by Reuters, 72 percent of Americans said that they thought Kaepernick's behavior was unpatriotic. Another 61 percent said that they do not "support the stance Colin Kaepernick is taking and his decision not to stand during the national anthem."

    • all American adults disapprove 54 - 38 percent of athletes refusing to stand during the National Anthem in protest of perceived police violence against the black community, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.

    An extra special dose of insult comes from the fact that many people associate American Football with patriotism and the country, symbolically. I suspect the emotional effect would have been far less if it all happened at a real (Soccer) Football game.

    Interestingly, there does seem to be some actual blowback to the NFL because of this as per polling:

    “Are football fans voting with their TVs?” asks a new Rasmussen Reports survey. “As the NFL struggles to explain this season’s downturn in viewer ratings, 34 percent of American adults say they are less likely to watch an NFL game because of the growing number of protests by players on the field,” the poll reports, noting that 12 percent say they are more likely to watch, while half say the protests have no effect on their viewing decisions.


    P.S. As an additional, secondary issue, some people take umbrage at the idea that NFL players—whose multi-million dollar salaries are enabled both by the institutions of the USA and by millions of fans who are offended by the kneeling—are protesting "injustices". It's a lot easier to accept the protest from random Joe Schmoe rather than a multi-millionaire success story, regardless of what the protest is about (this is similar to how people earning $40K react to "sexism affects unequal salaries in Hollywood" protests from actresses being paid millions of dollars—it doesn't matter if they actually are paid less than male actors, or what the reasons are, it still seems utterly hypocritical to many average persons.

    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.

    In other words, the argument is that there is a "proper way" to show the flag respect, and he is not doing that, thus is not "respecting the flag". Nonetheless, I still stand by his protest.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM