NFL kneeling sparks differing opinions between students

In the 2020 NFL kickoff game Alex Okafor, who plays defensive end for the Kansas City Chiefs, dropped to one knee during the national anthem prior to the game. As his teammates placed their hands on his shoulder, Okafor raised two fists into the air. While the Chiefs remained on the field for the anthems, Okafor took a knee and his teammates held their hands over their hearts. 

The Houston Texans joined in the protest by staying in their locker room for both the Black national anthem and the Star Spangled Banner. The Texans reasoning for this was that they did not want to show that they were favoring one over the other. 

This all was done as a silent protest in an attempt to draw attention to the issue of police brutality against people of color and bring awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement. Players of the teams had the names of victims of police brutality written on the backs of their helmets. The actions of these two teams caused mixed emotions among fans. Fans “booed” as the teams took center field following the national anthem. 

“I think that it’s not disrespectful for either of the teams because the national anthem is supposed to represent freedom and peace and America has neither with all the things going on right now.” Sophomore Aniyah Henderson said regarding what the Chiefs and Texans had chosen to do during the anthems. 

On the other hand, freshman Arkel Hutchins said, “It was disrespectful for the Texans to not come out for the national anthem because they could have still come out and stood for it, they weren’t forced to kneel.”  

Henderson and Hutchins are both black students at Cedar Falls High School who have shared different beliefs on the BLM movement and how both the teams represented it at the NFL game. 

In March, George Floyd died while being taken into custody by white police officers in Minneapolis. This sparked attention towards the BLM movement which has been around since July of 2013. Since then the movement has had an impact on athletics, including the 2020 sports seasons. 

“The BLM movement should be brought into sports because the African American athletes/players are using there platform and fame, like Okafor, to spread light and get people to notice that there is a problem in todays society especially because so many of these famous athletes relate to these situations and grew up with this type of problematic system.” Henderson said. 

While Henderson believes BLM being brought into sports is allowing athletes to spread awareness using its platform, Hutchins disagrees. “I don’t think that the movement being brought into sports will change anything considering very little is changing after all the protests.” 

Following the anthems, the Chiefs and Texans walked to the center of the field. This was a time that was intended to ensue in a moment of silence and unity. Instead, the stands erupted with booing. There is still uncertainty amongst everyone on what the displeasure was about. Whether it was because the Texans remained in the locker room or because of the inclusion of the BLM movement in athletics, it remains certain there are and will continue to be differing opinions. 

Henderson does not feel that what the teams had done during the anthems was disrespectful. He felt that it was the fans who had been disrespectful. “I feel as though the fans who had booed the teams are very closed minded people. How can you support the players as athletes but not who they are as a person and their values?” Henderson asked.

However, Hutchins is with the fans. “I would have booed for the Texans when they came out because I thought it was disrespectful that they stayed inside the locker room during the National Anthems.”


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