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Athletes/Coaches taking a knee during the anthem at meets

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Geoffrey Taucer, Oct 19, 2017.

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  1. Lately, the question of when and where and how it is appropriate to protest social issues has come up in many sports, most notably (but not only) the NFL. I expect it is just a matter of time before this question must be addressed in the gymnastics world, so while this is a politically charged issue, we will be relaxing the no-politicking rules for the purposes of this thread.

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    ALRIGHT, HAVING SAID ALL THAT, let's get down to business (to defeat the huns).

    Do you think it is acceptable for athletes to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem at meets? What about coaches? Judges? Parents in the stands? Is this something to be decided by individual athletes/coaches, by the head coach, by the owner of the gym, by the parents, by the meet director, or by somebody else? Does it make a difference if the person in question discusses it with the coach/meet director/owner/whoever beforehand? Do you personally plan to take a knee during the anthem at meets this season?

    I will put my own thoughts in a separate post.
    #1 Geoffrey Taucer, Oct 19, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2017
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  2. To anybody who knows me well, it should come as little surprise that I would be 100% supportive of any of my athletes who chose to kneel for the anthem. I feel that, above all else, my job as a coach is to empower my students. I want them to stand up for what they believe is right, I want them to have the courage to speak out about what is important to them. I want them to grow up with utter confidence that they can change the world (and it certainly needs changing). Especially given recent events in our sport, I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT want my young female athletes to be afraid to speak up when they feel something is wrong, and I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT want them to be silenced by fear of repercussions from authority figures like myself.

    If one of my students elects to break social norms by kneeling during the anthem, fully aware of the blowback she is risking by doing so, I would be enormously proud of her, and I would defend her to the end.

    Note that everything I said above applies regardless of why specifically the athlete is kneeling. If they wish to discuss that with me, I would be happy to listen to them; I hope they would not do such a thing flippantly, but only after giving thorough consideration to what they're doing and why. HOWEVER, it would not be for me to decide if their protest and their reasons for protesting are valid.

    As for me, I am considering taking a knee myself, but have not yet decided whether to do so. Several things make me feel that taking a knee would be the right thing to do.

    First, those who have famously taken the knee during the anthem are primarily doing so to protest police brutality, which disproportionately (though not exclusively) targets black and brown Americans. I do not believe this is a political issue, but a moral one. I believe part of my job as a coach is to model good morals and ethics for my students, and what better way to encourage them to stand up for what they believe in than by standing up for what I believe in? Speaking out is always scary, but perhaps by putting myself out there, I can make it a little less scary for any of my students who would like to do so.

    Second, I feel that the united states has an unhealthy fetish with patriotic symbols, to such an extent that we value respect for certain inanimate objects over respect for living breathing human beings. Our leaders wear flag lapel pins and wax eloquent (and sometimes not so eloquent) about their respect for our brave men and women in uniform, all while cutting veterans' benefits and sending service members away from their families to fight in often-unnecessary wars.
    True respect for the troops should be expressed not in salutes, but in donations to veterans charities, support for greater veterans benefits, and opposition to unnecessary wars. True love of American freedoms should be expressed not in standing for an anthem, but in remembering and celebrating the civil rights icons who fought and died to make sure these freedoms were extended to every American. True patriotism should be expressed not in lapel pins or bumper stickers, but in support for the teachers who pass on our history, heritage, and values to the next generation of Americans. No amount of respect for the flag or anthem will bring back so much as one single dead soldier, nor will it help any of the roughly 40,000 homeless veterans in this country to find food and shelter.

    Third, I feel there is a disconnect in this country with regards to what "freedom" actually means. To prevent somebody from protesting is the absolute antithesis of the most important freedoms on which the United States was founded. Freedom of speech and freedom to protest were among the very first things enshrined in the Bill of Rights. And yet, so many people seem to want to silence those who are exercising these rights, and I can only assume that for all of those who have been willing and able to protest, there are probably many who wish to but have been forced to remain silent. In taking a knee, I would be showing solidarity with those people.
    #2 Geoffrey Taucer, Oct 19, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2017
    Agymmom, Aero, H.J. and 12 others like this.
  3. As a judge I would not do it at a meet, as I do not believe it is my stage. A meet, or any athletic event, is about the athletes. It is their stage. Because the athletes involved at gymnastics meets are mostly very young children, and still in the process of forming their own views, I think it would make me a little uncomfortable to see grammar school age athletes doing it, as I would worry they are not expressing their own views but those put upon them by others. I might feel differently about high school/college age athletes or if i knew the athlete personally and knew the idea was their own.
    Aero, Lisbeth, BachFlyer and 5 others like this.
  4. Regarding keeping the event focused on the athletes: you make a very good point, and that is one of the reasons I am still not sure whether or not I will be taking a knee at meets this season. I feel that, in the big picture, it is the right thing to do, however it would also draw attention away from the athletes, which is not something I want to do at all.

    You also make a completely valid point regarding the age of the athletes, one on which I have conflicting thoughts. On the one hand, I would only want a kid to kneel if it is a decision they are making for themselves, not if they are doing it to conform to their friends, teammates, parents, etc, etc. On the other hand, from talking to black friends of mine, it is my understanding that most of them get "the talk" from their parents about police interactions very very young, and for their own safety. How old does a black girl have to be before we have faith in her ability to understand that her father and brothers are at greater risk of police brutality than those of her white teammates? How old does a Mexican girl have to be before we have faith in her ability to understand that the current president launched his campaign by calling her family members rapists and drug smugglers? I have coached an 8-year-old transgender athlete (she'd be 10 or 11 now), and I'm quite positive she understands that many people in the country view her as a freak. I am uncomfortable with the idea that freedom of protest has a lower age limit.
    #4 Geoffrey Taucer, Oct 19, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2017
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  5. At the request of a parent, I'll move this thread to a more general section so that we can get input from everybody, not just coaches
  6. I feel very strongly that it is every American’s right to express themselves in peaceful protest at any venue they decide. I think the single most patriotic behavior you can show is questioning the government when you believe it’s off course or wrong. If my daughter took a knee at a meet both my husband (who is active duty military) and I would both support her and be incredibly proud of her.
    Agymmom, Aero, kecks and 9 others like this.
  7. Agreed, I know many young people who have already fully formed positions on issues such as this. Some out of necessity, as you point out. Would never put any blanket age limit on passion for issues. But young athletes do look up to coaches for approval, and if I saw an entire team of 8 year olds taking a knee, it would cause me pause to worry the they were not acting entirely on their own.
    Aero, BachFlyer and Geoffrey Taucer like this.
  8. As way of background, several of my brothers and my dad are veterans. I always stand and sing the national anthem. At parades I always stand as a flag goes by.

    As a parent, I just would not really care if someone "takes a knee." I would be offended if they turn their back to the flag, although I guess we probably should not stop them given the first amendment.

    But I just gotta say. I am bewildered by the huge offense at taking a knee. That throughout history has been a sign of reverence...

    In the Bible to God
    Knights to nobles
    People to kings and queens
    Soldiers in front of graves of fallen comrades
    Men who propose to women

    Why when someone does it to bring attention to social injustice is taking a knee construed as "disrespect" to the flag and anthem. The folks doing it even sat that is why they chose it .. (it's a respectful sign of protest).

    I don't know, I just see it as another form of showing respect during them anthem--some stand, some salute (my brother does), some put their hand on their heart, most take their hats off.. some even forget to put down their beer. I don't see kneeling as either disrespectful or a big deal.
    Aero, Jenny, Seeker and 8 others like this.
  9. I would take it even a step further and say the vets in my family have no issue with it even if it is considered disrespectful to the flag. My Vet/retired career military husband is actually offended by the idea that he "fought for the flag". He says he and other vets fought for the guy in the foxhole next to them.
    Aero, BritBrat, profmom and 6 others like this.
  10. For those whose meet seasons have already begun, are you seeing athletes link arms or kneel during the anthem? If so, what levels/ages?
    txgymfan and Geoffrey Taucer like this.
  11. Younger than 13 or so, they likely don't know much about the issue or what they're doing, and their probably just mimicking their parents.

    I agree with others on the opinion that it's not disrespectful. If you want some interesting reading, go read the flag code - there are some common things that are actually codified as disrespectful, including those displays when the flag is unfurled horizontally across a football field, incorporated into clothing, or even used on paper plates or napkins.
    Aero, BachFlyer and Geoffrey Taucer like this.
  12. I disagree. I know some first graders who have their own thoughts and could make this decision on their own. Younger than age six ( which is to young to compete in a gymnastics meet) and I might agree with you.
    BachFlyer and Geoffrey Taucer like this.
  13. Yes. Americans and selective outrage go hand in hand. This photo is making the social media rounds: upload_2017-10-19_10-36-33.jpeg
    l.c.o, BachFlyer and Geoffrey Taucer like this.
  14. Tamir Rice was 12 when he was gunned down by police. The daughter of Diamond Reynolds was 4 when she watched her mother's boyfriend, Philando Castile, shot to death right in front of her.

    I think if you're old enough to be a victim or witness, you're old enough to have an opinion on the issue.
    Agymmom, Aero, BritBrat and 4 others like this.
  15. Oh yes, this. The other thing my husband always says is that he fought for the ideal of America.. the idea of what we could/should be.
    Agymmom, Aero, coachmolly and 2 others like this.
  16. Most younger kids I've met are saying things they've heard from their parents and other adults they trust. It takes a higher level of processing to begin to evaluate those and form more complex and nuanced opinions. Children are amazing sponges at that age, but less likely to actually take what they absorb and transform it.

    Here's an article supporting that, suggesting that it's not really until college that kids begin to deviate from their parents:

    More on that subject:
  17. The kids I coach are little (11 and younger), so I haven't really given much thought to this issue coming up at a meet. I think, generally, they just do what they are told to do in school and don't really think all that much about it. Maybe that has been changed with current protests, but I have not heard anything from parents or kids. I don't mind either way what the kids ultimately decide. I think the only time I would step in is if I heard a kid trying to dictate what another child does during the anthem. I have known of gyms who have required certain behaviors during the anthem (hands over heart, arms linked, pinkies linked, whatever) and I'm not a fan of that. I want the kids to feel comfortable listening to the anthem however they choose. I live in a state that has had some pretty heated race related events take place recently, so I imagine most of kids (especially the 10-11 bunch) know at least a bit of what's going on and trust their judgement.

    Personally, I don't put my hand over my heart for the anthem. Not to make a statement, just because I don't and up until not too long ago, I didn't give too much thought to it. Only when Gabby Douglas got a whole bunch of crap thrown at her for not putting her hand over her heart for the anthem did I realize that I was doing something not considered politically correct by some groups of people. They are patriotic symbols, and I agree with Geoffrey Taucer that America has a weird obsession with those (where I am the current fixation is Confederate statues). There are plenty of other, more practical ways for me to show support of the military or appreciation for living in this country than placing my hand over my heart.
  18. I am of the mind of "I may not agree with you but I will fight for your right to say/do it" I personally don't believe that kneeling during the National Anthem is accomplishing what people want it to, but if they feel strongly about it go ahead, as long as they are protesting peacefully, which they are. I just question the end game. When will people begin to stand again? What are the goals that must be met? Will more people kneel for other issues? Some are already doing it for the gender gap. The problem with this type of protest is that eventually people just move on from it and it makes the cause seem petty, which it is not.

    I believe that the controversy makes our country appear more divided and weaker on the international stage - especially when players kneel for our National Anthem but stand for anthems of other nations. Like it or not, all countries place pride in their patriotic symbols and view signs of their disrespect negatively.

    I believe there are more productive ways to bring about that change, particularly given the players and entertainers who are participating. They make 10's of millions of dollars a year and have incredible public and media influence, including social media. They should use it - walk the walk. Get the talks started between communities and the police. keep them going. Have the real, hard conversations about how to bring about change into communities so that the youngsters feel like they have a bright future and something to strive for

    I believe the original NFL player who kneeled did it for media attention for himself, not for the cause, which then puts into question the validity of using the kneeling for the cause.

    I believe our president blew this out of proportion and should have ignored it instead of commenting on it. The media sets the trap and he falls right into it way too often. I also believe the media, and in turn the public, blew up over the stupid comments he made, purposely misconstruing his words. wrong on both sides.

    I believe employers have the right to dictate how an employee should conduct him/herself while working and representing the business/company, within social norm limits. Don't like it, don't work for them.
  19. I'm on the fence.

    I'm on board with athletes using their platform for good. I think Kaepernick had a point. I can understand his underlying frustration. I get the feeling like you just DO SOMETHING. There are so many out there that lack a true voice.

    That said, similar to the point @gymgal made, I'm not sure it's accomplishing the goal. It's become bigger than the original intent. I get the argument that maybe that's the entire point. An original statement about accountability and inequality was manipulated to being about the flag/national anthem/etc. That's frustrating and feels like a bit of a crossroads. (And I have no idea about Kaepernick's intent).

    I think that the protesters cannot stop yet, or it'll be even more difficult to be heard later. Do I hate the current narrative? Yes. Do I think it belongs in football? Why not - it's an issue that affects people everywhere in their lives... football too. Does the NFL as a league 'deserve' the negativity associated with it? Probably not on this particular subject. Should protests happen on 'company time'? Maybe not, but that's up to the employer.

    With regards to our kids at meets though, I'm torn. These are potential decisions they're making that could follow them into adulthood. Are they capable of really 'getting' that? If so, knock yourself out.

    At the same time, I get a gym saying no thank you and wanting to avoid the drama.

    As for coaches and judges, given most gymnasts are minors, I think it's maybe a no for me. I'd hate to create any divide (perceived or real) between gymnasts and coaches in the gym. What if gymnast kneels and coach doesn't? What about vice versa? From that perspective, I hope this isn't an issue my kids have to face anytime soon.

    And I get that this is selfish and that my own very real white privilege is showing. I've discussed the current situation with my kiddos multiple times. We keep an open dialogue. I'm not one to conflate kneeling with hate of anthem/flag/America at all. But I do hope my kids aren't in a position where they gave to make a choice while worrying about what their coaches or what the judges might think.
    Aero and BachFlyer like this.
  20. Ugg, typos. :mad::oops:
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