At a rally in Hunstville, Alabama, President Donald Trump stated, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of a [explicit] off of the field right now. He’s fired.”
It began last season when former San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench during the national anthem to protest the presence of inequality in the United States. Eric Reid, safety for the 49ers, approached Kaepernick and suggested that they kneel instead as a respectful form of protest. This movement led to some additional NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest as well.
Since Trump’s recent statements, several NFL players and teams have participated in this act by locking arms or kneeling during the national anthem. The Pittsburgh Steelers even stayed in their locker room, except for Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger. Villanueva stood outside of the tunnel in respect to the national anthem. Villanueva added that he felt “embarrassed” and that his actions took away from the team’s efforts and brought unnecessary individual attention on him instead.
While some NFL teams knelt during the national anthem, others stood and locked arms. Trump tweeted his opinion on this act by stating, “Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!”
Trump continued his speech by stating that this act is a total disrespect to the U.S and against what we stand for. “That’s a total disrespect of our country. That’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for.”
Many agree with Trump that the NFL “taking a knee” during the national anthem is completely disrespectful in nature and the line needs to be drawn. Others see this as a bold movement, where athletes who have vast amounts of influence are utilizing their voices to bring awareness to continuous inequality.
Trump also suggested a solution to end the movement, which encouraged NFL fans to leave the game entirely when players took a knee during the national anthem. “The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Just pick up and leave.”
Many argue that the statements made by Trump are related to race. In response to these assumptions, Trump tweeted, “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag, and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”
As the season began, fewer players continued kneeling for the anthem and those that did were rarely talked about until President Trump made his statements over the issue. This caused players to rally in droves and kneel during the national anthem, and the rhetoric changed from talking about equality to an attack on President Trump. Each issue needs to be addressed and fought for, no doubt, but these situations raise the question: What are they really protesting about? Are NFL players taking a knee retaliating to Trump’s statements, or are they truly protesting for equality?