Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 8, 2021

IDEAL hosts discussion on NFL demonstrations

By HALEY HANSON | October 5, 2017


COURTESY OF LIAM HAVIV After athlete protests, students discussed the role of activism in sports.

In 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling as the National Anthem played before each game, starting a larger controversy about the role of activism in sports.

IDEAL, a nonpartisan student group that promotes discussion on college campuses, hosted a discussion about the demonstrations on Wednesday.

Kaepernick began taking a knee during the National Anthem to protest against what he considers to be the oppression of people of color in the U.S. Since then, more athletes have begun taking a knee during the National Anthem.

Other forms of demonstration have taken place, such as when Golden State Warriors player Stephen Curry refused U.S. President Donald Trump’s invitation to visit the White House.

The discussion began with addressing Trump’s reaction to the growing activist movement, which many consider to be divisive. After contextualizing the controversy, the panel asked if it was appropriate for Trump to criticize these protests.

Sophomore Omar Lloyd criticized Trump’s response.

“The President should at least try and talk to them and figure out why they’re doing it,” he said. “The way he goes about saying ‘get out of the country if you don’t agree with everything that’s going on’ is just the completely wrong way to go about it.”

According to another audience member, former U.S. President Barack Obama took a more balanced approach, saying that while athletes who choose to kneel should acknowledge that some people might consider the action disrespectful, those people should similarly understand the reasoning behind the protest.

Participants also discussed whether there is a role for social activism in sports. Many agreed that athletes have the right to make their voices heard.

Lloyd said that despite the divisive nature of the subject, the discussion remained civil.

“There was a good flow of ideas back and forth,” he said. “People respectfully disagreed and agreed.”

He added that he appreciated the scope of the talk.

“We talked a lot about patriotism and what that means and what it means to respect the flag and to be American, what it means to be conservative or liberal in this current political climate,” Lloyd said.

Sophomore Devanshu Singh, the president of IDEAL, had a similar takeaway. While noting that most participants took a left-wing approach, he said there was a diversity of opinion.

“There were some moments during the discussion when people really disagreed,” he said. “People showed really reasonable responses.”

Singh said he emerged with a broader understanding of the reasons behind the protest movement and found himself more sympathetic towards its goals.

“At the beginning of the talk, I didn’t think it would be appropriate for someone to kneel during the National Anthem, but now I think it’s completely fine,” he said. “I don’t think that sports should become a political arena, but I think when necessary and when it’s a massive issue and there’s no other platform, sports players can show their opinions.”

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