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Unite or Divide?

Portsmouth High School student athletes weigh in on the nation’s athletic divide.

Annabel Talbot, ThePaperClip Staff/Writer

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Recently there have been protests against the injustices that people of color are still facing today. Professional football players in the NFL have begun to kneel during the national anthem before their games, and it is creating an outbreak of chaos in our country. Some teams have made the decision to not come out for the national anthem as well as standing during our nation’s song while linking arms. It is a very controversial topic nationwide and is threatening player’s careers, the coaching staff, and team fans, all major factors in the NFL. Student athletes of all sports and ages at Portsmouth High School have weighed in on this subject.

The two questions that were asked during these interviews were “As an athlete, do you think kneeling during the national anthem at a professional level is okay and why?” The second question I had asked was “Do you think kneeling is going to make a difference?”

The first two interviews started with the freshman boys soccer team and I collected their thoughts on the subject.

Patric Dailey, grade 9, on the freshmen boys soccer team stated in answer to question one, “Yeah, I think it’s okay because they want justice for beliefs and aren’t affecting our nation.” In response to question two asking if kneeling is okay he responded with a simple “yes.”

Josh Pisani, grade 9, an athlete on the boys freshman soccer team had a different opinion than his fellow teammate. Commenting based off of question one he said “So I can understand their view on how they have their rights and freedom of speech, but I believe that there is other times to protest, not during our national anthem.” After asking question two, Pisani said “Yes it is going to make a difference, to the NFL viewers!”

Junior Varsity field hockey, freshman Claire Ellicott’s thoughts on these controversial events are, “I think that they should stand because it is kind of rude and disrespectful but all Americans have the right to express themselves.” Replying to question two, her words were “Yes, kneeling will make a difference because they were trying to draw attention to the treatment of minorities but are now drawing the attention to the fact if they are standing or not.”

While interviewing the varsity volleyball team, many players had opinions on this topic. Cassidy Perkins, grade 11, a member on the girl’s varsity volleyball team said as a reply to the first interview question, “Yes, I think it’s okay because I think it’s a personal decision, and I don’t think it is meant to disrespect the flag, I think it’s meant to show their thoughts on the racial injustice issue.” Perkins feedback on the second was all positive saying, “Absolutely! I think it raises awareness to an ongoing issue that needs to be discussed. Along with many of the other student athletes the answer was very confident because many players already have their mind set on their opinion for this topic.

Harrison Flagg, a student athlete on the varsity football team had a few very strong-minded words to say about this topic. “I don’t believe kneeling at the national anthem at any level of athletics is acceptable. I am a firm believer in protest and free speech. Understanding that a key factor in effective protest is to get people talking about the subject and riled up, this method of national disrespect is counterproductive. Kneeling during the anthem, whether the motive or not, brings division. If the purpose of kneeling is to encourage unity, doesn’t kneeling and bringing disrespect to it do literally the opposite? I mean, the national anthem is dedicated to unity. It is one of the few things every American can relate to and at least have some form of positive connection to. By kneeling during this they are stripping the unity off and placing a political trademark on. Ignoring the national disrespect, consider the marines as a compelling factor. In a military funeral, when a member has died the flag is folded and handed to the next family member. One of the servicemembers folding the flag gets down on one knee and hands the flag to the recipient. There are few things as powerful as this, and writing does not do it justice. From that perspective, it is difficult to see someone kneeling before the flag during its anthem highlighting its very meaning, and not feel something. For that reason alone I couldn’t personally kneel, out of respect for the men and women who have died for that flag and that anthem. Whatever my protest motive may be, bringing division to an entity dedicated to unity has got to be the least helpful action.” Flaggs comment on the question of is kneeling going to make a difference was, “I think the action is counterproductive. Kneeling is disrespectful and unhelpful, but in my opinion standing arms locked is equally effective [in the beneficial sense] without disrespecting people….”

Last but not least Charlie Welsh a sophomore and Lily Webb a junior from the junior varsity girls soccer team gave their input on this subject. Welsh responding to the first question said “I think it’s okay and I think whatever the players want to do and however they feel should be okay and they should be able to express it in anyway.” In response to the second question she stated “I think now people will really see what is happening and become more aware, but hopefully people will change their ways.”

Webb voiced her opinion on the first question by saying “I don’t think it’s okay to kneel because it is disrespectful and is setting a bad example and causing more issues. They get paid enough so they should at least stand.” She said “It will make a difference because they are definitely getting their point across and it’s all over the news.”

Judging by all of the responses, our community, school, and nation’s opinion on this specific issue is divided. All people have their own beliefs and ways on how their brain works, and what actions they do to show their feelings on controversial subjects like this. The society that we live in makes it hard to do your own thing without someone disagreeing with you and or judging you.  The future of our sports teams are the millennials who have stated their opinion.

Our nation’s minds are divided but our nation is still one whole and it looks to be as though the students now, truly care about being a united nation. 

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Unite or Divide?