By Nicholas Morgan and Hayden Dwyer, Contributing Writers

Against Kaepernick 

Since the San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the national anthem before their preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, dozens of athletes across the country have shown their support for his cause by also kneeling before their respective games.

We should applaud the 49ers’ quarterback’s and others’ motivation to use their stage as a voice for a real issue in America, but the question begs to be answered: are his actions really helping the cause?

In an exclusive interview with NFL.com after his first preseason game, Kaepernick stated, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

His statements have stirred up a large debate over the effectiveness of his protest. Article I of the U.S. Constitution states that the quarterback has the right to exercise his freedom of speech and protest. Kaepernick emphasized that his silent protest was against police brutality and racial inequality, but his choice of protest feels strongly misplaced.

The American flag stands for unity, liberty and equality, the very things that he is supposedly fighting for. The stars and stripes do not represent “a country that oppresses black people,” but rather, they represent a country that embodies every American. Those fighting for righteousness should point to our flag and declare that it is our unifying factor, not disrespect it as if it were the center of our problem.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz said, “…the flag is the flag. Regardless of how you feel about things that are going on in America today and things that are going on across the world with gun violence and things of that nature, you’ve got to respect the flag.”

Regardless of our race, political affiliation or religious beliefs, we simply cannot find more ways to divide us as a nation, a community. We must stand together in solidarity and give our flag and the values that it stands for the proper respect that it deserves.

While we cannot ignore the social issues that plague our country, we need to remember the words of Baltimore Raven’s tight end, Benjamin Watson: “Obama can’t save us. Mrs. Clinton can’t save us. Mr. Trump can’t save us. The only one who can change the heart of man is the Lord.”

Our differences are what make America great, but our unity and reliance on Jesus Christ are what will allow us to prosper as a nation.

For Kaepernick 

To what extent do we respect other’s rights to protest? A series of demonstrations have emerged in the past few weeks sparked by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand for the national anthem. This protest, while incredibly controversial, is exactly what this nation needs.

Black Lives Matter is a movement we as young adults in America are all too familiar with. This group of activists are most known for protesting the shootings of black males by police officers. There have been cases of rioting, looting and violence towards civilians and police officers alike all supposedly in the name of Black Lives Matter.

When witnessing these protests-gone-bad, media outlets all over the country called for peaceful protests as opposed to riots. Colin Kaepernick did just that. He is not calling for retaliation. He is not telling protesters to take to the streets. He is merely using his platform on the national stage in a peaceful manner and calling attention to a pressing social injustice in our country. And how is this demonstration met? With death threats toward Kaepernick and any other athlete bold enough to take a stand and police departments refusing protection to teams that participate.

“Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution/No refuge could save the hireling and slave/ From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.” Can we really respect the national anthem if it proudly references our national sin?

The ironic part is that the players affected aren’t phased in the slightest. When asked what he thought about police picking and choosing who they serve in an early September press conference, Kaepernick shrugged and said, “all the more reason to keep [kneeling]…”

Those opposed to this protest say they are disgusted because kneeling for our national anthem is unpatriotic and disrespectful towards the military and our national heritage. It’s true that our flag is a symbol of our heritage, unites us under a common cause and helps us remember the sacrifices our military makes.

However, in the third verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” there is a reference to slavery: “Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution/No refuge could save the hireling and slave/ From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.” Can we really respect the national anthem if it proudly references our national sin?

This protest, as stated numerous times by both Black Lives Matter supporters and the NFL players themselves, is meant as a protest to racial injustice, not our military or our country as a whole. Until societal changes are made, Kaepernick should continue his stand by taking knee.