The Law Office of David E. Gordon hosted their annual scholarship contest this year. We asked applicants to answer the following prompt in an essay or video:
COLIN KAEPERNICK DREW MUCH ATTENTION WHEN HE REFUSED TO STAND FOR THE NATIONAL ANTHEM BEFORE AN NFL GAME. WAS HE WRONG NOT TO STAND OR WAS IT A LEGITIMATE METHOD TO BRING ATTENTION TO A REAL PROBLEM IN OUR COUNTRY? You must submit an original essay of no more than 600 words or an original video of no longer than two minutes.
We received many fantastic entries but could only choose two winners. Our two scholarship winners are:
Gabrielle is a pre-medical student at Utah Valley University. She is double majoring in Psychology and Biology, studying to become a psychiatrist.
She loves to read, write, or sketch in her free time. She has been involved with art and writing ever since she can remember, and loves reading every genre she can get her hands on. When not involved with these, you can also find her binge watching Gilmore Girls or spending time with her wonderful family or quirky dogs who take up a large chunk of time and keep her sane and crazy all at once.
Gabrielle’s essay submission:
The actions of Kolin Kapernick back in 2016 followed by the actions of other football players this year has brought national attention to a debate that has been in motion since before “Texas vs Johnson” in 1989. This debate is between freedom of speech and nationally venerable symbols of patriotism within our country, and it questions whether an action is right or legitimate if it publicly disregards these venerable symbols. In this case, the symbol being disregarded is our national anthem, and those who are disregarding it publicly are doing so in the name of a cause; specifically, racial injustices within the United States.
In order to understand the debate today, we do have to look at the Supreme Court ruling back in 1989. In that year, Gregory Lee Johnson was a part of a staged a protest designed to stand against the policies of the Reagan administration as Ronald Reagan was coming up on his election for the second term of his presidency. In this protest, Johnson and others dumped gasoline on the American Flag and lit it on fire while proclaiming “America, the red, white, and blue, we spit on you.”
48 States at the time, including Texas, had anti flag desecration laws in place. Because of this, Gregory Johnson was sentenced to a year in prison and was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine. He appealed this ruling, and the case was sent to the supreme court. There, they ruled that his actions were a protected right of free speech.
We should consider a few things with this ruling, the first being that it was still a close decision. There were 4 in opposition compared to the 5 who were in favor of it. That shows that the sentiment then, much like we are seeing now, was strongly influenced by the desire to call this man’s actions indecent and unlawful. The second thing we must consider is the argument that was used on the side of Texas. The argument was that the flag needed to remain unharmed in order to act as a symbol of the unity in the nation.
Due in large to my education on this history of free speech, I believe wholeheartedly that the actions of our sports athletes today are another extension of the right of free speech. The case of Texas vs Johnson gave us the necessary words to explain that freedom of speech cannot and should not end with our spoken word. In other words, we should be allowed to express this right through actions themselves. Despite being a very emotional subject for many, the symbol of the national anthem is still subject to protest for a cause.
When I look to the argument that a symbol needs to remain intact to remain a symbol of national unity, I find myself thinking that these symbols should not be used as such if our nation is not unified. I believe that this protest shows a call for unity around a cause, and when it does start unifying us around social issues, we can return to standing for the national anthem together. Until that time, I say that we can and should protest as is our right.
Daya is in her senior year and her interests include film making and anything that’s art and technology related.
She is a part of her school Drama Club, Skills USA team, and NAHS. She plans to begin classes at Chattahooche Technical College in 2018.
Watch Daya’s video submission: