In part two of our Sports in America: Football free English class series, we will look at one of the biggest recent controversies in American football: the national anthem protests at NFL games.
Approximately 15 minutes
National Anthem Protests at NFL Games
Click below to listen to a recording of this passage.
In the United States, the national anthem is played before every major sporting event. Both players and fans stand up to show respect for the nation’s official song. Many people also place their hands over their hearts while the music plays. Outside of sporting events, the national anthem is played at important national ceremonies, where it is always treated with great reverence by listeners.
During NFL games, the national anthem is seen as a symbol of patriotism and respect for military veterans. Oftentimes, military fighter jets will fly over the stadium as the song finishes, prompting the crowd to cheer in celebration. However, in recent years, the national anthem has also become a source of controversy and national discord.
On September 1st, 2016, Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, did not stand for the national anthem. In fact, he decided to take a knee while the song played. Though this action went unnoticed at first, he was eventually questioned by the news media. He informed the reporters that he was kneeling to raise awareness of racism and police brutality in America.
Many Americans went to social media to show their support or vent their outrage over Kaepernick’s peaceful protest. However, in the following months, many other NFL players showed support for Kaepernick and his cause. The controversy quickly grew to the point that even President Donald Trump tweeted his opposition to Kaepernick’s actions.
Following the 2016 season, Colin Kaepernick became a free agent when he was released from his contract with the 49ers. He was unable to get hired by any other team, prompting Kaepernick to file a lawsuit against the NFL for conspiring to keep him out of the league. Following his exit from the NFL, Kaepernick (and many others) continued their efforts to raise awareness of racism and police brutality.
In 2019, Kaepernick became the face of Nike’s “Just Do It” advertising campaign, drawing further attention to the former NFL player and his protests. While Kaepernick helped raise awareness of an important cause, racism and police brutality continue to be a problem in America today. People of color in the United States are more likely to be the victims of fatal police shootings than white Americans.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the words in bold from the passage:
Grammar Center: Passive Voice
If you’ve ever written an essay in English or taken an advanced English course, you’ve probably heard of the passive voice. The passive voice (as opposed to the “active voice”) puts emphasis on the object, rather than the subject of a sentence. Here are a few examples from the passage:
As you can see, most examples of the passive voice use some form of “to be” (sometimes replaced with “got”) followed by a past participle. The passive voice also emphasizes the recipient of the action (the object) rather than the thing committing the action (the subject).
If we wanted to change these sentences to the active voice, we would need to change the tense (remove the past participle) and emphasize the subject, like this:
In these examples of active voice, we mentioned the subject before the object. The opposite is true in the passive voice.
Most English teachers and language experts agree that the active voice sounds stronger and more authoritative. As a result, your English teacher will probably encourage you to use the active voice in your writing. So, why use the passive voice at all?
When to use the passive voice
The passive voice exists for a reason. It works best when you want to focus on the action or the recipient of the action. It is also useful when the subject is vague, general, or unknown. Here are a few specific examples: