NFL Protest: ‘Mom, What Does ‘Taking A Knee’ Mean?’

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The latest hot social media trend — NFL players and other athletes “taking a knee” during the national anthem in a show of solidarity after recent comments by President Trump — has parents scrambling on what to tell their kids.

How do parents espouse family values while at the same time allowing kids to have their own opinions on topics of note?

“It’s a matter of developmental perspective,” says child and adolescent psychologist Dr. Laura Saunders from Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living. “What you say to a young child might be different from what you’re saying to your middle-schooler or high-schooler.”

The current social media kerfuffle over professional athletes and team owners “taking a knee” is an opportunity to look at the situation and try to understand both sides, according to Dr. Saunders.

“This is an opportunity to talk about what the First Amendment is,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to talk about free speech. Look at these as teaching moments.”

Help your kids navigate the current clash of politics, sports and culture with more tips from Dr. Saunders:


  • How do you wish to convey your family values to your children while giving them the opportunity to form their own opinion?
  • Respect the decisions of others.
  • Have them understand that, for some people, “taking a knee” is a form of protest against our president. Talk with them openly about whether it is OK to go against what our president is saying.


  • Discuss our freedoms and the First Amendment.
  • Take another person’s perspective. (“We believe it’s best to do X, but why would someone else see it differently?”)
  • Are NFL players role models? For their athleticism or other reasons?
  • Words have meaning. The President said some words and some people are reacting to it.  Even though there are First Amendment freedoms, we still need to take care with our words and actions.


  • Many NFL players who are African American feel this is about solidarity.
  • Many minorities feel disrespected, and this is a way to show their discontent.

Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living is a member of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network. For information on programs and services, click here




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