So, what comes next?
The protest started during the NFL’s preseason by Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers has made its way to Alaska, as six players from West High School in Anchorage took a knee during the national anthem last weekend prior to their football game against South Anchorage, as reported by KTVA television.
While the student-athletes were not able to comment on what they were protesting — the school’s principal denied KTVA’s request to interview the players — Kaepernick and other NFL players who have followed his lead have said they are attempting to draw attention to issues of social and racial inequality across the country.
As protests go, quietly taking a knee during the anthem may be one the most respectful forms of dissent we’ve seen. Protestors have not disrupted any ceremonies, nor have they defaced the flag in any way.
However, the flag is a powerful symbol in this country, and the protest has generated significant outrage. As the initial shock has worn off, the conversation is beginning to shift toward the issues being protested, and there is certainly room for discussion of social justice here in Alaska, for example, around the state’s legacy of its treatment of Alaska Natives, among other issues.
We’re glad those discussions are taking place. Whether it be conversations at the dinner table, in schools, or in other gathering places, drawing awareness to an issue — prejudice, suicide, domestic violence, drug use — is the first step in overcoming the challenge.
The next step is taking those conversations and turning them into actions that make our community a more positive place.
Here’s what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said about the protests, as reported by the Associated Press: “I truly respect our players wanting to speak out and change their community. We don’t live in a perfect society. We want them to use their voice. And they’re moving from protest to progress and trying to make things happen in communities.
“I think where they’re moving and how they’re moving there is very productive and we’re going to encourage that.”
Certainly NFL players have more resources at their disposal to effect change than the typical high school student, with charitable foundations and outreach organizations at their disposal.
But one of the many lessons we hope that students learn through their participation in co-curricular activities is leadership, and there is an opportunity to use that skill. There are people in our own community who are in need; what can we do to help? Organize a fundraiser or food drive? Volunteer with one of the many local non-profits? Donate your time, money or talents? Maybe just practice random acts of kindness?
We’d like to take Goodell’s sentiments and turn them into a challenge for both those who support the protest and those who don’t: Try to make something happen in your community. Because at the end of the day, making our community a better place to live should be a common goal.