By Sarah Browning, Contributing Writer

Last August, Colin Kaepernick made a statement by choosing to kneel during the national anthem. His protest first sparked controversy and now a trend. On Sunday, Sept. 24, President Trump tweeted, “Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country” and called for team owners to “fire or suspend” players that choose to kneel.

This was only shortly after Trump made a series of impulsive remarks at a rally for Luther Strange. According to CNN, Trump said these players are “ruining the game” and suggested that coaches should respond by using offensive language.

This has been coined as an issue of disrespecting the American flag and the people who died defending it.

The comments that Trump made are clearly not presidential. He made a poor decision in using his position of power to bully NFL players and coaches. I make no defense of his commentary. He should be more focused on giving these men a reason to stand for the anthem than condemning them.

I personally agree that it is disrespectful for these players to kneel during the anthem because it represents so much more than this particular struggle. While I disagree with the decision, I acknowledge that this very protest characterizes the freedom we have as Americans. They are free to kneel; that is their choice.

That being said, these players are also using their influence in a way that creates divisiveness in our country. The Week writer W. James Attle III said in an article, “Both Trump and the protesters are making the same fundamental mistake: they are treating American patriotism and concern for racial justice as a zero-sum game.”

Trump reinforces the fact that he seems to not care about the concerns of different races and hopes that the anger he generates, by emphasizing disrespect for the flag and the people who died defending it, compensates for his lack of accomplishment. The protesters cater to an audience that already agrees with them, which causes the people who actually need to hear them to stop listening.

Both Trump and the protesters are intensifying a divide that already exists in our country. By choosing to kneel during the anthem, the protesters are actively separating themselves from a country to which they claim they want to belong.  It would be more beneficial and productive for the protesters to stand and create an argument or a protest that actually communicates to the audience that needs to hear them. This is the harder choice, as it is far more work to try to communicate than it is to kneel, but choosing communication is the choice that has more power to change minds.

Trump and the NFL players ought to try the harder job of articulating legitimate issues, without condemning entire populations and without condemning each other. They ought to use their positions of influence to attempt to unify our country rather than to widen the divide we struggle with daily. They have the power to set an example for our country.