College Athletes: We Kneel Because America Offers Nothing to Be Proud Of

Not even the freedom that allows you to hate America?

Two college athletes, Kennedy Kline and Ua Hayes, wrote an op-ed in The Oberlin Review expressing the reasons why they refuse to stand during the national anthem before games. Essentially, America offers them nothing to be proud of.

Kline and Hayes are on the field hockey team and said up until last year, their team has stood, though reluctantly, for the anthem:

We didn’t feel proud to be standing for America because we didn’t feel that America offers anything worth being proud of. We’d felt this before: feelings of discomfort, confusion, and anger over being pressured to stand tall and strong in a display of unrelenting patriotism. At a certain point, we just couldn’t ignore the feeling anymore.

They credit Colin Kaepernick for emboldening them to start kneeling at games and so they began to do the same last fall. And with a new season beginning this year, the team has decided to “kneel once again.”

“Simply put, we kneel for justice,” the op-ed continues. “When the national anthem first reached American ears, Black people were still enslaved. It is not a song written for us, about us, or in support of us. This ‘land of the free’ was a land of slavery and oppression, and what the American flag symbolizes is no different.”

“Until the United States stands for us, we won’t stand for it,” they said.

The teammates lament being asked to either choose athletics or activism when they arrived at Oberlin. To them, there is no difference:

[W]e are always Black first and athletes second. As Black athletes, we carry our Blackness with us every time we walk into the locker room, the weight room, or onto the field. We use our sport as a platform to stand up — or kneel down — for the issues we care about because there is no way for us to ignore who we are when we walk onto the field, and we shouldn’t have to.

Hayes and Kline said instead of asking them why they kneel, “Ask yourself what you stand for.” Perhaps its “police brutality,” “mass incarceration,” “institutional racism,” or maybe its “Trump.”

“Simply standing for the flag because it’s what we’ve been conditioned to do isn’t enough for us anymore,” the two state. “We don’t have the privilege to pick and choose what parts of America we want to stand for. Because we can’t stand for all of America, we kneel.”

And so, they pledge to kneel for every game until the United States becomes “a land of the free — a land that does not yet exist.”

*This op-ed was brought to you by the First Amendment. Hayes, nor Kline, were imprisoned or executed for speaking out against the state. 

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