Taking a Stand on Sitting

Anyone who has ever gone to a professional sports game in America knows what happens before the main attraction. A singer is introduced and walks out, while a group of soldiers or another designated group stand nearby, bearing the American flag. The National Anthem is played as the singer bellows out the lyrics, finishing to a crowd erupting with applause and cheers. One may feel an array of emotions during this; some swell with pride for this nation and how blessed we are to live in a country like it, while others are humbled in thankfulness for those who have risked and even lost their lives to serve their country. More recently, however, a number of people, particularly sports players, have chosen to sit and not honor the anthem, sparking much debate. One side supports this decision and says it resides under the free speech amendment. Those who view differently, say sitting while our anthem plays is disrespectful to the country and those who care about it. Which bias stands correct? Should various sports leagues force their players to stand up during the anthem, hence taking away their freedom of speech? Or should these acts be tolerated?

Sitting for the National Anthem stands out as a big controversy this year. Colin Kaepernick, then starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, was the player to initially remain seated during the song. Many were appalled by his actions, but shortly after, other players around the National Football League joined along. Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color” ( While Kaepernick, and many others in America, believe there is discrimination towards minorities in this country, this is not the intention of the country. In fact, the Constitution’s thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments deal with problems the nation has had involving racial bias. These laws abolish slavery, define that citizenship is not based on race, and allow any U.S. citizen to vote. Many other federal laws, outside of the Constitution also prohibit discrimination based on race, religion, and sex. Even though one person or a group of people may experience racial bias, the United States as a nation gives equal opportunity to everyone and does not oppress individuals based on any discrimination.

While people ask who is on which side, the big question is whether or not it should be allowed. Some people say sitting while the National Anthem plays is unconstitutional, but they are wrong. While many people cringe at the disrespect and would love to have five minutes alone with those who do not honor the flag, this act is protected by the first amendment as a form of free speech. One needing some help understanding the right to sit for the anthem could turn to the landmark Supreme Court case, Texas v. Johnson, in 1989. During a republican national convention in Texas, Gary Johnson burned an American flag to protest against President Ronald Reagan. This violated a state law, and Johnson was arrested. Working its way up to the Supreme Court, the majority dissented that even though society may not approve of an action, the moral beliefs of a group of people cannot suppress symbolic speech (Texas v. Johnson). Even though several people find it mocking and offensive for others to protest the national anthem, we cannot force them to do so as their freedom is protected by the Constitution.

Many might choose to exercise their first amendment right through violent protests or speeches, which seem to make little impression. But, Colin Kaepernick peacefully protested, making a decision no public figure had done prior. He came out leaving a bombshell of a debate that this nation will have to endure for a time yet to come. I hope that we reach a day where we can put aside racial, religious, and political differences and see ourselves as Americans. This country has endured many a good and bad, but let it not crumble over taking a seat.


Works Cited:

“Facts and Case Summary – Texas v. Johnson.” United States Courts, United States Court Archives,

Wyche, Steve. “Colin Kaepernick Explains Why He Sat during National Anthem.”, National Football League, 27 Aug. 2016,


About the Author:

Name: William Pledger

Age: 15, 16 in November


How many years have you been apart of TPS?

I am currently in my fourth year of TPS.


What classes are you taking with TPS this year?

Russian 1, Chemistry, Computer Programming in Java, Geometry Honors, World History, and English 3 Literature Survey, (also chemistry problem solving but I don’t know if that counts), and Economics will start in the spring


What are a few of your hobbies?

Piano, baseball, debating about politics.


How did you hear about Clay Magazine?

Relatives/TPS friends who were writers/editors for TCP at the time shared their articles and the magazine with me. If Clay is different than TCP, then I heard about it on the website.



  1. Perfectly said. Thank you for writing this!

  2. Very well said. I totally agree on your section about how the constitution grants everyone the right to take such actions.
    However, I would like to point out something you didn’t mention. When Colin Kaepernick first started peacefully protesting the national anthem, he sat on the bench. A veteran came up to him to let him know that it would be more respectful if he kneeled during the anthem rather than sitting. This way, he still honors the veterans while actively protesting the racial injustice in America. If Kaepernick were truly disrespectful, like many people argue, he would have ignored the veteran’s advice and continued sitting on the bench. He chose to follow the advice and “take a knee” (the phrase that has become the iconic name of his movement), showing his respect towards the people that fight to protect this country whilst making a powerful statement about state nature of the country itself.
    side note: I really hope my comment doesn’t seem like a ridicule or accusatory towards you or your article. I simply wanted to point out this important detail to anyone else reading. 🙂

  3. I like how you worded this, but I am not sure if I completely agree on if the Constitution allows “taking a knee” during the National Anthem. Football players are under the jurisdiction of the NFL, and according to NFL rules and regulations, players are required to stand during the Anthem. It is my personal opinion that “taking a knee” is not included in the right to free speech.
    However, I am not saying that you are wrong or trying to be accusatory–I appreciate how respectful your article was, and I do agree with some of your points. Hopefully I worded this correctly :)–I’m not trying to start a debate, I just wanted to state my personal opinion.