When news broke of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem in NFL’s 2016-2017 season, it caused an uproar. His kneeling had nothing to do with protesting the NFL or the flag, but because he did not want to show pride “for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Some NFL players stood with Kaepernick in solidarity, which generated mixed reactions from fans, players, coaches, owners, and of course, President Donald Trump.
Kaepernick (right) kneeling before a game. Photo courtesy of Seattle Times.
At a campaign rally on Sept. 22 in Alabama, Trump referred to these players “disrespecting the flag” as “sons of bitches” who should be fired. This was not only inappropriate, but sparked an entire controversy between the NFL and Trump.
Rich Eisen, host of the NFL Network’s NFL GameDay Morning, decided to speak out against Trump, noting that this show is one of the first to air about the sport on Sundays. According to Sports Illustrated, this is some of what Eisen said in his statement:
“What it is are people that are not trying to offend when they are taking a knee or sitting down during the national anthem. What they are, are people offended by their American experience, their American experience that perhaps you, Mr. President, or many of us have not experienced personally. And this is a moment when they are taking a knee and when they are sitting down, they are doing so to spark a conversation, to spark a dialogue, which is the most democratic thing that can be done in this country.”
With most of the NFL’s games being played on Sunday, football fans and the media are anxiously waiting to see what other players will do or say in regards to what Trump said. During the national anthem for their game at Wembley Stadium in London, the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars kneeled and locked arms. The Jaguars’ owner, Shahid Khan, was the first owner to stand with his team. Khan is also the only Muslim owner in the NFL, and previously supported Trump during his campaign.
Khan (middle), standing with the Jaguars. Photo courtesy of NY Times.
The Pittsburgh Steelers did not appear during the anthem, choosing to stay in the locker room. Coach Mike Tomlin said “We’re not participating in the anthem today, not to be disrespectful, but to remove ourselves from the circumstance.”
The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants locked arms, and only a few kneeled or raised fists. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie also locked arms with his team.
What may have been the most anticipated is the national anthem at the New England Patriots and Houston Texans game. Quarterback Tom Brady is friends with Trump; however, owner Robert Kraft released a statement early Sunday morning, saying he was “deeply disappointed” in Trump’s comments. During the anthem, some Patriots players chose to kneel. Brady was seen linking arms with players, but chose to stand.
There are still more games to be played today, so if you want to be kept updated, you can read the New York Times’ live updates.
What could come out of this controversy? It’s unclear, considering Trump is sticking to his word that NFL players should be suspended for supposedly disrespecting the flag; however, the original purpose of taking a knee was to point out the flaws in our country and fight for the oppressed. Many Americans are also upset that this has turned into such a big deal, as Puerto Ricans are still without power and in need of assistance after Hurricane Maria, and millions of Americans’ health care could be revoked.
Whatever the outcome of Trump vs. the NFL is, it’s guaranteed that football fans will be talking about this for a long time.