Political clubs gather to debate NFL protests

Lily McCullough, Staff Writer

The Junior Statesmen of America, Unity Council and the Student Political Education Club all came together to sponsor a debate about the recent controversy about protests in the NFL. Students filed into a classroom on Tuesday, Oct 10th, to discuss and debate the recent actions. The debate was moderated by senior Andrew Wan, co-chair of JSA.

Senior Henry Philpott and junior Sebastian Varma, representatives of the Young Conservatives Club and Young Liberals Organization, respectively, began the debate with opening statements on their personal and political opinions on the issue.

Philpott’s opening statement justified NFL players’ constitutional right to kneel during the national anthem, but also clarified his belief that the protests are disrespectful. Varma’s statement directed the debate toward the initial reason for the protests: differences in treatment between white people and people of color.

Following the opening statements, senior Jacob Brown gave a pre-approved speech in which he reminded students that NFL players switched from sitting during the national anthem to kneeling, in order to respect the wishes of former NFL player and Green Beret Nate Boyer. Brown also stated his belief that the real tragedy of the protest is the changing focus from racial inequalities in the United States to potential disrespect of the American flag and the national anthem.

“They really tried to make the balance between pro and con speakers equal,” sophomore Taliha De Ochoa, vice chair of Unity Council, said. “I wish there had been more time, so more people could have spoken.”

Wan opened the discussion to the students, allowing all to participate and vocalize their opinions on the matter. The debate was formatted as a back and forth between those for and those against the protest.

People got their opinions voiced, and that’s all that really mattered.

“There was a predetermined order for the debate that didn’t get followed, but people got their opinions voiced, and that’s all that really mattered,” sophomore JSA officer Pranav Konduri said.

Participation in the debate ranged from passionate speeches to the presentation of facts on the matter. Junior Genson Hooper Price delivered his emotional take on the issue, citing his own concerns of police brutality against the minority community. His speech resulted in a standing ovation by other students in the room and even moving some to tears.

Although JSA officers had the best intentions of maintaining the initial balance of pro and con speakers, there was a majority of pro-protest speakers by the end of the debate. Nonetheless, speakers from both sides spoke passionately, and some did not get the opportunity to chime in as so many students were eager to share.

Despite conflicting opinions on the moral justification of players to kneel during the national anthem, all students agreed on a final note of unity that the players are justified to kneel under the Constitution.