Photo courtesy of NBC News

At a rally on Sept. 22, President Trump took to the stage and gave his opinion on what should happen to NFL players who decided to kneel during the national anthem. Amid calling players “sons of bitches,” he called for owners of NFL teams to immediately fire anyone who kneels or otherwise protests during the anthem. Much to his surprise, the NFL fired back with shocking force.

The controversy started with Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49er, who knelt during the national anthem back in September of 2016. Since then many have followed in his footsteps, kneeling during the national anthem as a form of peaceful protest and to raise awareness about police brutality in the U.S. Interestingly enough, as the frontrunner of this movement in the NFL and despite leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl, Kaepernick remains a free agent for the upcoming season.

But with Trump’s newest media feud, #takeaknee has become more than just a movement about police brutality. This past weekend, almost 250 NFL players and numerous teams across the country took to the field in protest of the president himself. Many teams were joined by their owners – a scene that is very rare in normal circumstances – including Dallas Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones, who formerly gave Trump’s campaign $1 million. Players locked arms and knelt before their games throughout Sunday and Monday, sending a powerful message about equality and standing up for what is right.

Yet Trump continues to take his hard-line stance on kneeling during the anthem. Following the protests, he took to Twitter in true presidential style, saying that he approved of linking arms, however kneeling was absolutely not acceptable. But what he and thousands of angry white Americans do not realize is that they are missing the point.

To kneel during the national anthem is not to disrespect the country or anyone who has sacrificed their lives defending it. Quite the opposite, it’s a peaceful protest meant to bring awareness to police brutality and the value of black lives in the U.S. that keeps our country from reaching its full potential. The people who are protesting (peacefully, as it is very important to keep in mind) do not do so out of malevolence for America, but rather out of a vision for her future – a vision where we are all afforded equal rights and no one faces discrimination because of the way they were born.

Kaepernick did not stand for the anthem for a very specific purpose. In 2016 he said, “Ultimately, it’s to bring awareness and make people realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust, people aren’t being held accountable for and that’s something that needs to change… This country stands for freedom, liberty, justice for all and it’s not happening for all right now.” He used his platform to take a stand for something that he believed in, to make meaningful social change and push the country to take a step in the right direction. Almost exactly one year later, his simple act inspired hundreds to follow suit, in turn earning attention from the president himself and media headlines for over a week. But now it is time to capitalize on this strength and force the movement forward— for a brighter future and a better America.