On Sept. 22, Donald Trump made comments about recent NFL protests and he was met with a reverberating response on a historic level Sunday. What was meant to insight American pride during the National Anthem, lead to hundreds of players protesting to the comments and utilizing their first amendment rights.
During a speech in Huntsville, AL, Donald Trump attacked current NFL players protesting during the National Anthem. In a move started last fall by then San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, players have begun kneeling during the National Anthem in front of many fans. This was met by an angered response by many people, now including Trump. Kaepernick originally began kneeling to protest the lack of equality and police brutality in the United States as racial tensions are high.
According to Sports Illustrated, Trump commented, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag, to say ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!” Trump also stated, “They’re ruining the game. That’s what they want to do. They want to hit. They want to hit! It is hurting the game.”
This comment came on the same day that former NFL player Aaron Hernandez, who suffered from severe CTE, committed suicide while in prison on murder charges.
Athletes in the NFL immediately lashed back at the President. Detroit Lion’s tight end Eric Ebron tweeted, “Does anyone tell trump to stick to politics, like they tell us to stick to sports? Smh.” Also, highly respected Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman who has spoken out about major problems in the nation before tweeted, “The behavior of the President is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. If you do not Condemn this divisive Rhetoric you are Condoning it!” This gave hint to what was going to come Saturday. However, the most powerful tweet came from a military widow named Katie Hubbard, “My husband died for your right to #TakeAKnee. He would have supported you; I supported you. Sincerely, a military widow.” This tweet has gotten more than 90,000 retweets and over 350,000 likes.
Of course, there was opposition against these athletes as well. The Cloyd Rivers account on Twitter, commented, “Playin’ football doesn’t make you a hero. Disrespectin’ the National Anthem won’t stop police brutality. We must stand united not divided.” Lindsey Aiken also tweeted, “Remember who is the face of the #TakeAKnee movement. A guy who wore a Castro shirt, and socks depicting cops as pigs! #MAGA #tcot”
On Sunday NFL teams took action. Players from the Bears, Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Chargers, Chiefs, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Jaguars, Packers, Patriots, Ravens, Seahawks, Steelers, Titans and Vikings all protested in some form. The most noteworthy of the protests came from the Dolphins, Jaguars, and Steelers. Players from the Miami Dolphins warmed up in shirts saying I’m with Kap an allusion to supporting Colin Kaepernick. The Jacksonville Jaguars all linked arms in unity and their owner Shad Khan joined in the line. Finally, the most controversial of all protests was from the Pittsburgh Steelers. On Sunday the players for the Steelers stayed in the locker room during the anthem. Notably, Alejandro Villanueva, an offensive tackle for the Steelers and a veteran who served three tours in Afghanistan, stood in the tunnel with his hand over his heart.
Not only did these comments affect NFL players, but athletes from other sports got in on the action as well. NBA star LeBron James released a video online stating, “It’s not about dividing. We as American people need to come together even stronger. Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets on the other hand was more aggressive with a tweet, “With everything that is going on in our country, why are you focused on who’s kneeling…” Also, for the first time in MLB history a player kneeled during the anthem. Oakland Athletic’s catcher Bruce Maxwell took a knee during the anthem.
As the sports world reacts to what is going on in politics, one can only wonder if a college sports team will join in with the protests. The Wittenberg Tiger’s football team have all taken to standing with their hands over their hearts and looking onto the flag.
One can only wonder what Trump’s intended reaction from the NFL would be and he got quite the response this weekend.