Mainstream and social media have been nearly consumed by the recurring disrespect shown by NFL players during the national anthem. On several occasions, multiple players have decided to kneel during our national anthem rather than stand.

NFL players have the right to take a knee during the anthem. Few people would dispute that. However, the message the players claim to be making, and the actual message that disrespecting the anthem portrays, are two very different things.

The Protests’ Big Mistake

The players have claimed to be standing up against police brutality, racism, or the president. Dallas Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones stated, “Our players wanted to make a statement about unity and we wanted to make a statement about equality.”

However, the flag and the national anthem do not symbolize any of those things.

The left, generally, likes to blame problems in America on America as a whole. However, America is not the problem. It is not the source of racism or violence. Racists are the problem, and the problem will never be resolved if blame is misallocated. In fact, it only causes further division.

The flag and the national anthem do not represent the tiny fraction of the population that engages in racism or police brutality. Kneeling during the national anthem does absolutely nothing to combat those things. Nor does kneeling promote unity, as Jones suggests. Viewers did not interpret the kneeling gesture as advocacy for unity or equality, and ratings rightfully plummeted.

Protesters should not have to explain or remind viewers of what exactly they are protesting.

The Flag’s Meaning

The flag and the national anthem represent freedom and liberation. They commemorate every American that fought and died to defend that freedom.

The flag also represents a nation that allows its’ citizens more rights and freedoms than any other nation. It represents the country that allows it’s citizens the right to protest their country. This right is not guaranteed everywhere, and it is part of what makes the United States the greatest nation in the world.

The meaning of the U.S. flag, in some ways, is best exemplified when someone disrespects it, burns it, or dishonors it by taking a knee during the national anthem. This does not make burning the flag or taking a knee the right thing to do. It is still an improper way of making a statement. However, the fact that we are freely able to do those things without fear of repercussions truly exemplifies the values embodied in the flag.

Vice President Mike Pence summed up the thoughts of many Americans in the following:

NFL players absolutely have the First Amendment right to make a statement, on or off the field. However, as Mike Pence said, respecting the flag and the national anthem is about paying homage to those who have fought and died for our country. The flag and national anthem do not symbolize racism, the president, or anything else the NFL players may believe they are protesting.

They stand for something far more noble.