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Posted 10/18/17 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Ever since Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco quarterback, decided last year to kneel during the national anthem to protest what he deemed to be wrongdoings committed against African Americans and other minorities in the United States by the police and others, the movement has spread across the National Football League. In the past several weeks, we’ve seen players follow Kaepernick’s lead and kneel during the national anthem, and other teams stay off the field entirely for the national anthem.
And Americans have noticed.
While there are those that support the players right to make this visual protest as part of their right to free speech, there are others who find this type of behavior unacceptable.
Without a doubt, every citizen of the United States is entitled to exercise their freedom of speech. And if that means not kneeling for the national anthem or honoring the flag of the United States by not standing, that is of their own free choosing.
But there is a big difference between doing that form of protest on your own time and doing it in front of a stadium filled with spectators or on national television when you are representing the NFL and your employer.
That is something that these players seem to have forgotten. When they put on their uniforms and are on the football field, they no longer represent just themselves. At that moment in time, everything that they do represents their team, the team owners and coaches and the NFL.
Even the NFL’s game operations manual clearly states that during the national anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking.
Which brings us back to Kaepernick. When he decided to take his protest to the football field, he knew that he was violating the NFL’s policy. But yet, he decided that his personal right to free speech was superior to the policies of the NFL. He was wrong in making that assumption. And so were all of the other players who decided to follow his lead in kneeling during the national anthem.
Why the NFL has decided to allow this type of behavior is a good question? And now, the NFL is paying the consequences of allowing this type of player behavior as they have seen an uprising from fans who view this action as being unacceptable.
And the fans are right. Until the NFL changes its manual regarding how players are to conduct themselves on the field during the playing of the national anthem, the players need to follow those guidelines.
National Football League players, like any other person, are certainly entitled to exercise the rights they are entitled to by the U.S. Constitution. If they don’t want to stand for the national anthem so be it. There are plenty of other places that they can choose to do so.
But so long as these players are wearing the uniform of a NFL team, they should be following the NFL guidelines.
Professional sports is not the appropriate place for individual protests.