FILE - Int his Monday, Sept. 12, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (35) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Santa Clara, Calif. Reid has resumed his kneeling protest for human rights during the national anthem, after joining then-teammate Kaepernick's polarizing demonstration last season. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File) ORG XMIT: NYHK702

Colin Kaepernick has been back in the media spotlight this past month for his Nike advertisement, but people haven’t forgotten Kaepernick’s last controversial move. With every action made by celebrities under heavy scrutiny, Kaepernick’s initial protest has called to question the idea of whether or not it’s even appropriate to protest like he did.

It was during a 49ers preseason game when Kaepernick first decided to protest the injustices people of color face in the United States of America. Kaepernick felt that the problems in the US had reached a point where he could no longer ignore them, so he remained seated during the national anthem. It wasn’t long after that initial protest that former Seattle Seahawks player Nate Boyer reached out to Kaepernick in August, 2016, with his own opinion on the matter. Boyer’s advice led to Kaepernick’s decision to begin kneeling during the anthem.

Boyer’s piece to the puzzle is an important one because it debunks the initial claim against Kaepernick’s decision. The initial backlash against Kaepernick’s kneeling was due to the opinion that it was disrespectful to the sacrifices made by service members, yet Boyer’s advice on kneeling was offered to respect servicemembers. Kneeling is something soldiers in the Army do to pay respect to fallen comrades. One of Kaepernick’s teammates, Eric Reid, likened the act of kneeling to a flag at half mast.

There are a lot of mixed opinions on the kneeling protest: regardless of the disrespect or lack thereof, many wonder if it’s an effective means to make the statement Kaepernick claims to be out to make. The National Broadcasting Company held a poll in April 2018 that showed a total of 54 percent of registered voters disapproved of the kneeling protest— regardless of purpose, they found it inappropriate to protest during the anthem.

One of the founding principles that built this country is the first amendment that governs the people’s right to peaceful assembly. The first amendment lets the US hold itself accountable through utilization of the newspaper and free speech, and yet people often disregard the right to peaceably assemble.

America’s history is filled with protests whenever the country hit a turning point. From Women’s Suffrage to the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom: protests have always been the precursor to change.

People can think what they want — there’s an argument to be made on either side of the conversation. Sifting through the mass of opinions will reveal one truth however: Kaepernick was within his rights as an American citizen to protest. The initial pushback from the National Football League left the debate prominent in its discussions, but they’ve since rescinded their punishment of policy violation.

The NFL kneeling protest has been one of the most divisive controversies to take hold of the country since beginning in 2017. Though the NFL’s most recent policy update has clarified the official stance the league takes on the national anthem protesting, the only certainty is that the protest controversy won’t be ending any time soon.

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Steven Gonzalez
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