Teaching Your Children How to Protest Responsibly, Part 1

The United States has a storied history of using peaceful protests—including student protests—to affect change. American students have launched protests against the military draft, the Vietnam War, apartheid, the war in Iraq, school curriculum, and more.

Today, we’re seeing a new and unprecedented wave of student protests inspired by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. While student protests have historically been concentrated on college campuses, students as young as kindergarten have participated in the current movement by sitting or kneeling during the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance.

Much like Kaepernick’s original protest, these acts have caused controversy. Some students, particularly student-athletes, have faced disciplinary action for protesting. So what are students’ rights when it comes to protesting in schools? And how should parents respond to children who feel passionately about these issues? In this four-part series, we will discuss how parents can teach their children to protest responsibly. Let’s start with Part 1.

How Did the Protests Begin?

On August 26, 2016, then-San Francisco 49’ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the pre-game National Anthem. A photo was tweeted, and a massive debate ensued.

Kaepernick addressed the media two days later, explaining, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

The quarterback’s assertion that he was making a statement about racial inequality and police brutality did nothing to calm the controversy, with many believing Kaepernick was disrespecting U.S. war veterans.

Throughout September and for the remainder of the season, other NFL players joined Kaepernick. Players kneeled, sat, linked arms, or raised fists to symbolize their support of the protest.

In March of 2017, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49’ers, becoming a free agent. He has yet to be picked up by another team, with many alleging his protests are the reason. President Donald Trump tweeted, “NFL owners don’t want to pick [Kaepernick] up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump.”

President Trump added more fuel to the fire during a September speech in Alabama, commenting, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b**ch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

In response, many more NFL players joined the protest. Entire teams kneeled, sat, or linked arms. Some players wore T-shirts in support of Kaepernick, raised fists after scoring touchdowns, or continued warming up during the anthem. The Steelers, Seahawks, and Titans remained in the locker room for the duration of the anthem. Even team owners and those who sang the anthem joined in on the protests.

Well, that’s it for Part 1. In Part 2, we will discuss how students joined the NFL protest.

Click here to read all 4 parts of this series.

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