By SEAN BERMINGHAM
At a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, President Donald Trump spent a portion of his time on stage talking about the National Football League. What started as a tangent about how penalties for hard hits are making the game soft and “ruining it,” quickly became a tirade on the National Anthem protests started last year by former forty-niners’ quarter back, Colin Kaepernick, and how the players “disrespect our flag,” according to President Trump.
President Trump then called for people in the stadium, paying customers, to get up and leave if they see someone kneeling for the 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… Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave.”
The President said that he wished NFL team owners would cut players who knelt or in any way disrespected the flag.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b**** off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired,” said President Trump.
The response to the President’s comments began on Twitter with many players and fans telling the President to stick to politics and stay out of sports. The drama continued into Sunday with teams all over the country banding together to show support for each other against the dividing rhetoric coming from the President.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, the Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks all kept their entire team in the locker room during the National Anthem except for former army ranger and current Steelers’ offensive lineman, Alejandro Villanueva. The singer performing the anthem for Atlanta’s game against the Lions knelt during the final chorus.
Numerous players, coaches and even some owners linked arms in solidarity showing the President, the nation and the world that the NFL players will not stop their protest until change is made. Some displayed less subtle forms of protest like Buffalo Bills’ running back, LeSean McCoy, who was seen on the field stretching during the anthem.
The fans reaction during these anthem protests will become more apparent in the coming weeks, but in New England on Sunday, fans were shouting “Stand Up,” booing and yelling other profanities at their kneeling players.
The President’s remarks riled up people on both sides of the argument with many supporters of the President arguing that people in the spotlight, like these football players, should show support for the flag and the nation.
However, others claim that the football players are not doing anything wrong by standing up for what they believe in and the people that support the Nazi agenda and white supremacy are the ones who need to be stopped.
Many team owners in the NFL backed up their players. Giants co-owners, John Mara and Steve Tisch, put out a joint statement, “Comments like we heard [Friday] night from the president are inappropriate, offensive and divisive, we are proud of our players, the vast majority of whom use the NFL platform to make a positive difference in our society.”
Stephen Ross, the Miami Dolphins owner, also put out a statement in which he called the players who kneel, “smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone.”
Terry Bradshaw, a hall-of-fame quarterback and Fox Sports commentator, came out saying he does not condone protests during the national anthem but believes every American has a right to speak out and protest for what they believe. He continued, saying that he hopes President Trump focuses on more “serious issues like North Korea and healthcare rather than ripping into athletics and the NFL.”
With the current racial and social tensions in our nation, the divisive comments by the President were a shock but not a surprise. These comments, while divisive, have also helped solidify the position on both sides of the issue as was demonstrated this weekend in the NFL.