When Colin Kaepernick, star National Football League player, started kneeling during the national anthem at NFL games, fans and the media erupted in outrage. News coverage everywhere read, “NFL player protests anthem.” This headline, while divisive enough to increase viewership numbers, was quite misleading. The reasons behind why he was kneeling, and why others started kneeling after him, have remained secondary to the discussion of this protest. Because the media is not covering this protest in the right way and fans are erupting in self-righteous outrage, I think this protest needs to end.

Many people have expressed their outrage on social media regarding players kneeling during the national anthem. To a large majority of NFL fans, kneeling during the national anthem is viewed as being very disrespectful to the men and women who are serving and have served in our military. These fans, out of disgust, have decided to film videos of them burning jerseys and season tickets of players who have decided to kneel during the national anthem at NFL games.

I have never seen something more blown out of proportion than what is happening in this scenario. When asked why they are kneeling during the national anthem, players have stated that they are kneeling to protest the perceived racism in America against people of color. This includes the recent deaths of unarmed black men shot by police and the institutional and systemic racism that is seen in America. Is this what the mainstream media is covering? No. They’re debating if it’s disrespectful to kneel during the national anthem, whether or not these players should be allowed to kneel during the national anthem, and whether to fire the players who kneel during the national anthem.

It is utterly ridiculous that the liberal media is not on the same page as these liberal NFL players. You would think that they would have some sort of coordinated approach to tackling the perceived “huge” issue of systemic racism in America. But they don’t. They are on two completely different wavelengths, which essentially hurts the message the players are trying to get across, which is that racism in America still exists and we need to do something about it. The very fact that the issue they’re protesting is not getting media coverage speaks to the ineffectiveness of their protests, however nonviolent they may be.

When the NFL players first started kneeling, I did not agree with it. To be frank, I still do not agree with it. I know exactly why they are kneeling, but I also know fans are getting upset and confused enough to start burning the jerseys of the players who are kneeling because they believe that they are disrespecting the country they live in and benefit from. Since fans are currently unable to correctly discern why the players are kneeling, I think they should just give up and call it quits. It’s pointless to continue stoking the fire. To be fair, just because I think they should stop kneeling does not mean that I think they should be prevented from kneeling. It is their First Amendment right to kneel. But it is also my First Amendment right to voice my opposition to said kneeling.

Seeing as how people have overreacted to their kneeling and how the mainstream media is failing to cover the actual topic being protested, I hold firm in my suggestion to them to stop kneeling. They tried to promote awareness of an issue but it failed miserably. Fans drastically misunderstood them and the mainstream media chose to sensationalize what they were doing to increase viewership, rather than focus on the issue being brought up. Continuing to kneel would hurt their cause more than it would help it at this point.

To actually make a difference on issues the NFL players care deeply about, they should try the following suggestions. One way to make a difference would be to donate their millions of dollars they are being paid to local charities that are addressing issues like generational poverty and getting kids to graduate high school. I have no doubt that this is what some of them are currently doing, which is good of them. Dollars will go a lot farther than misunderstood protests and poor media coverage. Another idea would be to actually bring up a set of demands for potential policy change related to the perceived racism in America they’re protesting. Brainstorming legislation changes is arguably a better use of their time than football. Lastly, they could put these two alternatives together: quit football, run for office on a racial justice platform, and lobby their fellow football players for campaign funding (which they’d probably happily give). Any one of these three options would yield a higher return on their investment than pettily, silently protesting a problem with no solutions in mind.