Teams across the National Football League showed solidarity during the national anthem Sunday, Sept. 24, in response to President Donald Trump’s comments regarding players kneeling.
Teams linked arms, knelt and stayed in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem prior to all 15 games played on Sunday. The networks showing the games included the playing of the national anthem in their pregame coverage, where this happened infrequently in the past.
At a rally for Republican Sen. Luther Strange of Alabama on Sept. 22, Trump called out NFL owners to act when players kneel during the national anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired — he’s fired!” Trump said.
Trump’s words were inflammatory but enhanced the idea of brotherhood across the NFL. Players, coaches and owners of all races and backgrounds joined together in unity before each game to show that they will not be divided over the hateful words.
Robert Kraft — one of Trump’s close friends and New England Patriots chairman and CEO — backed the actions of the players, saying he supports their right to affect social change and raise awareness.
“I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the president on Friday,” Kraft said. “There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics.”
Trump continued his attacks on Saturday by tweeting “Roger Goodell of NFL just put out [a] statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country. Tell them to stand!”
Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country.Tell them to stand!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
The president’s words are not only inflammatory, they are divisive and unconstitutional. By calling for the firing of players that kneel during the national anthem, he is calling for the prohibition of their use of the First Amendment: freedom of speech.
The kneeling protest was started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during a 2016 preseason game. According to a New York Times article by former teammate Eric Reed, they were taking a knee to bring attention to “the incredible amount of unarmed black people being killed by the police.”
Trump, however, says his comments are not about race, but rather patriotism.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 25, 2017
However, kneeling during the anthem has nothing to do with a lack of patriotism. It has everything to do with the ever-present division in the United States and a lack of action in regard to police brutality and race relations.
Players and coaches realize the massive stage they have been given to promote and stand for what they believe in. They are standing together and symbolizing the unity the U.S. ought to have.
For the president to attempt to silence the act of advocating for equal rights and respect is unacceptable. His rhetoric is continually divisive and disrespectful in and of itself. Calling any person a “son of a bitch” is remarkably degrading and impudent.
Trump must reassess the way he addresses the citizens of this country. He is the president for all of the U.S., not just those that align with his opinions. Should this rhetoric continue, it will only drag the U.S. into further anger, hatred and division.
To reunite the country and adequately address the unfair and disrespectful treatment of minorities, the conversation has to focus on humanity itself. We all must gain an understanding of where other people are coming from — and hear them out — without writing off their situation.
One year ago, former President Barack Obama addressed this same issue in a CNN town hall.
“But, I’m also always trying to remind folks that part of what makes this country special is that we respect people’s rights to have a different opinion and to make different decisions about how they want to express their concerns,” Obama said.
He went on to add, “And the only way to make it work is to see each other, listen to each other, try to be respectful to each other, not just go into separate corners.”
That is an idea I can rally behind.
Editor’s note: The views in this article do not speak on behalf of The Sentinel newspaper.