‘Taking a knee’ still stirring emotions, as two vets share their views


Keith Allison

San Francisco 49ers National Anthem Kneeling-Some members of the San Franciso 49ers kneel during the National Anthem before a game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on October 15, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Flickr)

Cynthia Tapia, Reporter


In much the same way the country is divided with regard to Colin Kaepernick and his public refusal to stand during the national anthem many veterans are also divided in their opinions.

Northeast Valley News spoke to two vets that hold different views about free speech, patriotism, and taking a knee.

Colin Kaepernick the well-known quarterback from the San Francisco 49ers raised awareness for something he believed in—namely, the issue of inequality of justice, racial profiling by some police officers against African Americans as well as police brutality and expressed his resistance by kneeling during the National Anthem.

In a 2016 exclusive interview with NFL media,  Kaepernick explained why he sat down during the National Anthem.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” Kaepernick said.

This controversy has ignited arguments over the matter for more than two years and has drawn criticism and calls for the firing of protesting NFL players from President Trump—along with Americans who agree with Kaepernick, or at least his right to express himself.

The issue has even breached certain political ideologies—many moderate conservatives to libertarians have “seen” Kaepernick’s point—while others believe he has gone too far.

This one event has caused enough uproar that it has become a very hot topic—even in polite conversation.

Still, no matter one’s position on the protest, the First Amendment is clear on freedom of speech.

Veterans who have served for this country fought to protect those rights and know the price tag that comes with such freedom.

Corporal Jose Martinez, an eighty-five-year-old Casa Grande resident, was a POW and served in the Korean War—Martinez expressed his feelings on the Kaepernick protest.

“When somebody doesn’t respect the national anthem, that bothers me because I do respect the national anthem,” Martinez said.

Although Martinez may not agree with the kneeling he does understand the importance for civilians to have their rights.

“It’s very important to protect the amendments of the American citizens,” Martinez said.

On the other hand, modern day veterans have their own thoughts as Sergeant Riley Pendleton shared his view about the initial protest.

“At first it was kind of easy to feed into the hype, like— why is this guy doing this? After you really look at it, it’s like you know what it’s good, that’s his right that’s what we’re trying to protect,” Pendleton said.

Pendleton, a Scottsdale Community College student, served in the Army as a combat engineer in Afghanistan for four and a half years and understands why Kaepernick took a knee and what he was bringing awareness to.

“Obviously there is prejudice and discrimination, it’s there,” Pendleton said.

He believes the whole situation may have been blown out of proportion due to some media antics.

“That was his message he was trying to convey and the media they hyped it up,” Pendleton said.

Since the initial protest— activists, celebrities and certainly politicians have chimed in with their own stances on the matter and for varied reasons.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter to address penalties that should be enforced if players do not stand for the anthem.

“First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!” Trump wrote.

Pendleton does make it clear that while serving overseas amongst veterans there is a common denominator—greater than division.

“The biggest thing I learned from the military that is when it comes to adversity it doesn’t really matter we’re all brothers,” Pendleton said.

For some, taking a knee is seen as a basic tenet of the First Amendment.

To others, taking a knee is seen as disrespectful.

Nike made Kaepernick the “face” of their “Just Do It” ad campaign in 2018 and the company received widespread praise from many for the—‘Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,’ message.

Nike also received some harsh criticism and posts of people destroying Nike merchandise.

For now, kneeling during the National Anthem and any penalties or loss of livelihood that are levied against a player—remain in the hands of the NFL or other respective sports franchises and private businesses.

The debate however, lives on.