Webster Student Kneels for the National Anthem


By: Michah Barnes, Sadija Begic, Kaelin Triggs

Senior basketball player Josh Johnson started kneeling during the National Anthem his freshman year. Johnson hopes this act will highlight the inequalities minority groups in America face. 

In 2016, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a stand against America. He did this by not standing at all, and instead by kneeling. Kaepernick and many other athletes made the conscious decision that the American flag and anthem, which are supposed to represent all Americans, do not represent the oppressed minorities who reside in this country. 

Josh Johnson, senior guard on Webster’s basketball team, said he began kneeling for the national anthem during his freshman year. Johnson remembers a senior teammate at the time said he could not stand and acknowledge a country that oppresses people of color and minorities.

“He said to me, ‘this involves you, this is your history too,’” Johnson said. “ So I looked into it and started to figure out what he was trying to protest and it made me want to do it as well.”

Johnson’s primary motive is to draw attention to the disparity that people of color face in terms of equal opportunity in America. Webster’s basketball team did not all feel the same as Johnson did. Johnson said that when he first started kneeling, not everyone was accepting of his desire for change. “Some of my teammates are okay with [kneeling],” Johnson said. “Some of my teammates accepted it but said they would not be a part of this. Then some of my teammates hated it.”

Johnson said he wishes he could have talked to his teammates about this movement so they could have had a better understanding on why he joined it. Outside of Webster’s basketball team, this movement is affecting the entire nation with its controversy.  

Many argue kneeling during the anthem is disrespectful to the nation’s troops and the many who have died in battle to keep our country safe. Meredith Sowers, senior sprinter and hurdler for Webster’s track and field team, has a different view from Johnson on this topic. Sowers said she understands that our nation has treated minorities and people of color poorly; however, she does not think the flag or anthem symbolize this oppression in America.

Photo by: Vanessa Jones Basketball players Josh Johnson (left) and Blake Ferrell (right) during the National Anthem before the game.

“I believe the flag represents an ideology,” Sowers said. “The flag is supposed to represent unity. It is supposed to represent that we are one nation  under God, indivisible, seeking liberty and justice for all. I feel like when you kneel during [the anthem], it shows you don’t agree with that ideology.”

Sowers says the flag does not represent the system or anything that is broken within the system, but rather that it represents what we as a nation should be striving towards. She said when someone kneels they are separating themselves from that good system which is striving for justice for all. According to Sowers, kneeling during the anthem is just dividing this country even more.

Sowers also said this movement is affecting many students who have family members who serve in the military. She believes there is a better way for someone to fight for their rights than to disrespect the flag which so many soldiers have died under to protect what it represents.

“Martin Luther King Jr. exercised his right to protest, but he didn’t disrespect the men and women who fought for you to exercise that right,” Sowers said. “I feel like there is a different way to do this rather than to disrespect people who are trying to help you instead of hurt you.”

Sowers said the way Martin Luther King Jr. protested against discrimination was stronger than disrespecting people who can’t understand why someone would kneel for the anthem. She believes people should find a way to protest that explains why they are protesting rather than just bringing attention to themselves.

Kaepernick once stated he had to stand up for people who are oppressed. He said if they took football away from him and his endorsements, then he knew he stood for what was right. Along with this, he also said he would not stand and show pride in a flag that oppresses people of color.

Johnson said that he primarily receives a negative reaction from people because of this movement. He said that a lack of understanding from others is the primary reason for this. He wants people to know that he is not trying to disrespect anyone in his protest.

“I can understand that it may look like [I am being disrespectful] from an outside perspective but that is not my intention at all,” Johnson said. “It is hard to explain that to someone when they are stuck in their viewpoints. So I just did it and ignored the negative responses .”

Johnson said he just wants to send a message. He wants to shine a light on the problems he sees in the system that helps certain classes of people and leaves the rest to fight for the scraps. He said if we are a country of freedom, we should let everyone have that freedom.

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