When Colin Kaepernick first chose to stay seated during the National Anthem in an NFL preseason game on Aug. 28., the response was nothing short of polarizing.
From death threats to outcries of support, Kaepernick’s decision and the growth of his movement have been central points of discourse in the U.S. over the past six weeks.
Kaepernick’s group of protesters were mostly limited to NFL players, until Saturday when roughly a dozen members of East Carolina’s band took a knee during the National Anthem for the Pirates’ home game against UCF.
ECU’s athletic director issued a statement condemning the band’s actions and the local ESPN radio affiliate has announced it will not cover this weekend’s game against USF due to the protests.0
In a reaction similar to that given to the San Francisco 49ers’ sixth-year quarterback, responses to the protest of ECU’s band were especially volatile.
In a country where freedoms are lauded and touted in seemingly every discussion about patriotism, it’s becoming ever clearerr that those freedoms come with exceptions.
Expressing displeasure with Kaepernick and his NFL colleagues is one facet of the First Amendment that allows protestors to have their voice heard, but directing that same vitriol toward college students is an entirely different issue.
By ripping coverage from the universities, ESPN has made it clear they are not above censoring content that even slightly contradicts their opinions.
Criticizing and pressuring these band members is crossing a line that has become more and more faded in the coverage of college athletics.
It’s become commonplace in sports media for the decisions of college athletes — on and off the field — to be questioned and persecuted under the spotlight.
As is the case here, those in power, such as the school’s athletic director and local radio stations, are taking advantage of the limited rights of college students.
When these authority figures take sides on the issue and even go as far as to punish not only the school but also their competitors for the actions of a few, these students are being forced into silence without the ability to fight back.