Athletes within rights to protest

Your view of the recent protests during the national anthem at sports events probably has to do with your view of the national anthem itself.

Some see the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a time for solemnity in respect for those who have made great sacrifices, including those who have perished, for the safety of the United States and the preservation of the principles on which our nation was founded.

Others see the playing of the national anthem as a time to reflect on the state of the country and our progress toward achieving the goals of equality and freedom for all.

If you belong to the first school of thought, you might have little patience for the recent rash of demonstrations initiated by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has sat or knelt while the anthem is performed before his team’s recent preseason and regular-season games.

Kaepernick wishes to call attention to the treatment of black Americans by police and to enduring social injustice in the United States. Members of dozens of pro and college sports teams have followed Kaepernick’s lead, sitting, kneeling, locking arms or raising a fist during the national anthem.

Indiana Fever players knelt together recently during the national anthem before their playoff game at Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse against the Phoenix Mercury. It was the first time an entire professional sports team had participated in such a demonstration.

Kaepernick, the Fever and others who have followed the quarterback’s lead should be lauded for finding a peaceful way to call additional attention to a matter of grave public concern. They haven’t physically harmed anyone; they haven’t incited violence. But they have spurred serious discussion.

Theirs is the way social movements, in the nonviolent spirit of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., should work.

Whatever perspective you have on the national anthem, if you truly respect and value the core principles of our country, you must acknowledge the right of athletes and others to make a peaceful statement during its playing.

And you, of course, also have the right to criticize such demonstrators if you find their protests during “The Star-Spangled Banner” ungrateful or inappropriate.

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