Op-Ed: It Turns Out Pro Athletes Taking a Knee During the Anthem Is Pointless


As the long-awaited return of professional sports swept across the country earlier this summer, many players and coaches kicked off their seasons by taking a knee.

As if it were planned – well, in some cases it was – players from all major sports put a knee to the grass, hardwood or ice.

Major League Baseball players and coaches started the trend when several knelt during the national anthem on July 23. Later in the month, NBA players expectedly followed suit. And on Aug. 1, the first NHL player – Matt Dumba – took a knee during the anthem in what turned out to be a bizarre sequence of events.

You see, Dumba knelt before the start of the game between the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks. Dumba, um, plays for the Minnesota Wild, so why was he even at the game?

Stranger yet was his decision to kneel for the U.S. national anthem but to stand when the Canadian anthem subsequently was played in the empty arena.

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To his credit, Dumba said he “kind of froze up” and regretted not remaining on one knee for the Canadian anthem.

Going forward, Dumba assured, he’ll protest both anthems before games. But … he might not always take a knee because if he’s not starting he’ll be on the bench, and then no one can see him if he kneels. Therefore, Dumba said he’ll remain standing with fist in the air while both the “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “O Canada” are played.

That’s good. If you’re going to protest, you have to be seen. After all, when it comes to fighting racism and oppression, it’s all about the visual.

Do you support athletes who kneel during the anthem?

See how silly this kneeling business in sports has become?

Anyhow, more than a month has passed since pro athletes and coaches began their kneeling crusade against police brutality and racial inequality.

What did it all accomplish?

Aside from alienating some fans, not much.

In the weeks since pro athletes took a knee to start their seasons, I haven’t seen the mainstream media report any decline in racism — systemic or otherwise.

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And as recently as this week, protests against police brutality still were occurring, so I assume kneeling didn’t solve that issue, either.

But that’s not the way it was supposed to work.

When the multi-millionaire athletes and coaches knelt, they told us they were using their platforms to amplify voices, raise awareness and spread the message.

Those all sound like things that should help find a solution, so why didn’t it?

Outside of throwing balls and strikes and scoring goals, maybe the impact of kneeling was minimal because athletes don’t have the platform they think they do.

Sure, their voices matter when it comes to the sports they play, but once they stray off-topic, people just, well, lose interest.

For example, I’d be more interested in hearing Dumba talk about a game-winning goal than about the logistics behind his decision to raise a fist behind the bench.

Unfortunately, pro athletes and coaches have placed themselves on such a lofty pedestal that they can’t even see that their voices don’t have much clout when it comes to solving the world’s problems.

San Francisco Giants Manager Gabe Kapler is a good example. He made headlines on July 20 by taking a knee during the anthem before his team’s exhibition game against the Oakland A’s.

Kapler said he knelt for the anthem because he wanted to amplify the voices of the black and marginalized communities. He added that the decision to kneel was made in order to stand up “for people who need us to stand up for them.”

I don’t believe in the term “white privilege,” but if it were a tangible thing, it would seem that Kapler is exercising it to the extreme.

Why does Kapler, who is white, feel he has the power to “amplify” the voices of marginalized communities? And why does he think people need pro athletes to stand up for them?

The last time I viewed coverage of the riots going on in Democrat-led cities across the country, I didn’t witness anyone begging and pleading for baseball players to kneel. I doubt the rioters in Portland, Oregon, are keeping their fingers crossed that NFL players will kneel in September.

But it didn’t end there with Kapler.

After President Donald Trump tweeted his displeasure about players kneeling for the anthem, Kapler responded in defense of the action.

“I see nothing more American than standing up for what you believe in,” the manager told reporters.

And that’s exactly what Trump was doing when he sent the tweet. In essence, Kapler indirectly, and likely unknowingly, defended Trump’s stance while he was upholding his own.

Considering the Giants are in last place in their division, I think fans would rather Kapler focus not on social justice issues but on doing his job.

While all of the kneeling and raised fists in MLB, the NBA and NHL have yet to halt or reduce racism, it soon will be the NFL’s turn to play martyr.

The league already has indicated that “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the so-called black national anthem, will be played before games during the opening week, and some players already said they will kneel for the anthem.

However, like the failure of the other major sports to solve racism, I doubt the NFL will be more successful. In fact, if the league wants to do it the right way and avoid alienating fans, players would stick to taking a knee at the end of a game to run out the clock — and that’s it.

Let’s face it: Someone who is racist isn’t going to stop being that way because pro athletes are kneeling. And the likelihood of people being reprimanded because of racist actions — which should happen — doesn’t increase because a bunch of baseball players taking a knee suddenly made us more aware of the problem.

We already know it exists. That’s not the purpose of sports. When we watch games and cheer for teams, we’re doing it as a brief respite from the stresses in life. We do it because it’s fun and we like to be entertained.

We don’t become fans in order to be educated by privileged players on subjects such as oppression.

Still, any time a player kneels, the act draws attention. Cameras zoom in while the anthem plays, and after the game reporters flock to a player’s locker to lob a few softball questions about why that player kneeled.

It’s been that way since Colin Kaepernick started the trend in 2016, when he played quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.

That’s fine. But what the mainstream media needs to start asking players who kneel is why it didn’t work.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Tom Venesky is an award-winning freelance writer based in Pennsylvania. He has 20 years of experience as a reporter and columnist for daily newspapers, and his work has appeared in more than 50 publications nationwide.
Tom Venesky is an award-winning freelance writer based in Pennsylvania. He has 20 years of experience as a reporter and columnist for daily newspapers, and his work has appeared in more than 50 publications nationwide.