August 12th, 2020
By Mishal Goel
With the NBA Restart happening, every broadcast has shown the national anthem to see how each team reacts and major media outlets have been publishing stories on why certain players/coaches have opted to stand during the anthem, as opposed to kneeling. What people don’t understand is that the flag represents different beliefs and values to different individuals. Those who kneel see the flag representing a country that is full of police brutality and a place where the color of your skin can get you killed. Those who stand see the flag representing all of the brave men and women fighting on the front lines to keep us safe. Okay but Mishal, should I kneel or should I stand? Honestly, who cares? Yes, that flag means a lot of things, but will you mean to make it better? That’s the real question you should be asking yourself. As long as you are doing your part to help the world become a better place, a place where everyone is treated equally, then it really doesn’t matter. But let’s look into a few examples on “both sides.”
I am using “both sides” very loosely because there really is just one side, but two different viewpoints. These demonstrations have been occurring in the United States, also known as “The Land of the Free.” The people kneeling are fighting to beat the ongoing oppression and want everyone to be truly free. Those who stand are fighting to make sure no external threats mess with our freedom. As you can see, WE ARE ALL FIGHTING TO BE FREE! Now onto some examples:
There have been very few players/coaches who have stood for the anthem, so let’s look at why they stand. First, Jonathan Issac of the Orlando Magic was the first black man to stand in the league. J.I., if you’re reading this, get well soon! It sucks seeing a player come back from an injury just to reinjure the same body part. To those who said it’s karma for him standing, you do realize he is a black man living in the U.S.A? I can guarantee that he has been racially profiled more than once. Issac was born into a religious family and he believes that through the Gospel and Jesus Christ we can end racial discrimination. You don’t need to believe in the same religion, or any religion for that matter, but to say he doesn’t support the Black Lives Matter movement is ignorant. Meyers Leonard, of the Miami Heat, struggled with his decision and was said to have not slept for a few nights over this. In the end, he decided he wanted to stand because his brother, Bailey Leonard, served two tours in Afghanistan. Leonard still wore his Black Lives Matter shirt as well as a custom “Equality” jersey. Even if you stand, you can still support the BLM movement as Leonard and his wife donated $100,000 to a fund that helps pay fees for Floridian prisoners leaving jail that must be settled before they have their voting rights restored. Finally, one of the best coaches in the league decided to stand — Greg Popovich. Like Leonard, Coach Pop also wore a Black Lives Matter shirt during the anthem. Pop is an Air Force veteran, so his military background led to his decision. Despite this, he has still donated and has been outspoken on racial inequality for years. Hopefully you can see that despite these three coaches/players deciding to stand, they are still using their platform to fight for equality.
There have been so many comments on Twitter saying how people will not watch the league due to players kneeling; others have decided to burn jerseys of those kneeling. Stop, just stop. That isn’t helping at all in this fight for racial equality. It just makes you seem like you don’t believe in equality and that wouldn’t be very cash money during these “cancel culture” times. The NBA has done a great job of allowing the players and staff to use their platform to fight for equality. They are allowed to have NBA-approved custom jersey names that fight for the BLM movement and allow their players/staff to kneel, something they used to have a problem with. In a predominantly black league, a majority of the players/coaches can be seen kneeling, but when did kneeling become disrespectful? Looking directly at sports, when a player gets hurt, what does everyone else do? They take a knee. They don’t do this to spite the player who got hurt, but to show respect to a person who put their body on the line. Those who believe in religion kneel before their god(s) when praying. I can damn well assure you that religious members would do everything in their capability to not disrespect their god. To those who are saying that they are disrespecting the flag, I got news for you! Taking a knee in the military is a sign of respect and is a gesture that can be spotted at the foot of a fallen soldier’s grave. I just want to know why people see the kneeling of these players as disrespectful when throughout history, it has been seen as a sign of respect.
Let’s go back to my first question—should I kneel or should I stand? Hopefully you can see that both viewpoints are fighting for freedom, both internally and externally, and you should be doing your best to fight for every person regardless of religion, race, sexuality, ethnicity, etc. to be free and equal. If you take one thing away from this blog, just remember that all these professional athletes and teams, regardless of kneeling or standing, are united in the same mission: allowing all lives to matter, but that starts with all of them and all of us working as hard as we can to make sure black lives matter as much as anyone else’s.