Trump: A Week Later
By: Gerald Mallison Jr, Sports reporter (@Geraldmall34)
During week three of the National Football League season, a plethora of players, coaches and owners protested against Donald Trump’s tweets regarding the national anthem protest. President Trump’s solution to players kneeling is immediate termination, claiming to “Get that son of a b—- off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired”. The NFL responded by unifying in protest against the president. From all staff hooking arms and kneeling, to three teams staying in the locker room for the entire national anthem. Most of the early feedback was very positive, with fellow athletes such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Lebron James applauding their heroism. Some NFL fans did not find the protest so heroic–for every action there comes a reaction.
A poll from ESPN showed that 51 percent of NFL fans disapproved of the NFL protests, compared to the 39 percent who agreed (10 percent were unsure). Polls also indicated that 62 percent of white males disapproved of NFL players taking a knee. Those who disapproved of the protest felt that the protest during the anthem disrespected the veterans and the entire country of America. This was shown in the first game of the week between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. A press conference prior to the game saw team leader Aaron Rodgers imploring fans to lock arms along with the athletes and show unity. A majority of the Green Bay Packers arena responded to this by chanting“USA” and booing players loudly during the national anthem.
The Detroit Lions also faced anthem backlash as Akeem Spence proclaimed kneeling during the national anthem costing his father a job. Tweeting that his father was denied a contracting job because of his peaceful protest. Spence was disgusted by this fact, pointing out that his father was being punished for a protest he had no part in.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are still reeling from their week three decision as long-time captain Ben Roethlisberger regrets not going out on the field during the national anthem. Stating
“I personally don’t believe the anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest. For me, and many others on my team and around the league, it is a tribute to those who commit to serve and protect our country, current and past, especially the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Fans of almost every NFL team went about burning tickets, jerseys and sending death threats for the protests.
The recent spark in protest is really a question of what the protest is about, and who is being protested. When Colin Kaepernick first knelt for the national anthem, he did so to raise awareness of police brutality in America, and the unfair treatment of African Americans. However, the focus of the protests seems to have shifted towards Donald Trump and his reign as president of the United States. Safety for the Kansas City Chiefs, Eric Berry, addressed this fact in a press conference. Eric Berry was in attendance when Kaepernick first knelt during the anthem and joined him last season before it was in vogue. Berry stated
“[Kaepernick] wishes that this many people were involved last year. I don’t think the narrative would have went in as many directions as it went if we had more solidarity. We could have focused in on these issues, but we have got to be pragmatic about it. We have this opportunity now, and it’s important that we discuss the issues and make changes.”
Berry does bring up an interesting point, these league and team wide protests only started after the comments from President Trump. Many were protesting Trump rather than protesting police injustice and racial inequality. Add this to the fact that in week four there was a drastic decrease in players kneeling and protesting the anthem. Meanwhile, the issue Kaepernick first brought to light is still prevalent and ongoing with less attention than before.
This also relates to a recent issue of Sports Illustrated, where the issue showed multiple figures in sports standing together with the title “A Nation Divided, Sports United”. Problem is, the magazine was whitewashed excluding Kaepernick from the issue even though he was the catalyst of this current movement. It included those like NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who have made no real public comments against police brutality. Even after Kaepernick lost his career to make a difference, he might be overshadowed by Trump’s comments on the anthem and the NFL’s response to them.
Everyone is not against the protest, and some do appreciate players trying to make a change. In another poll from ESPN, 72 percent of African Americans support NFL players’ protest and 63 percent of all avid NFL fans do believe Kaepernick would still be employed by an NFL team if he didn’t kneel. Unfortunately, there is a strong amount of people who advocate never kneeling for the national anthem. Whether it’s a feeling of disrespect being shown to veterans of the country or just not wanting sports to be mixed with politics. There is a divide in opinion, but in the end isn’t that what truly makes us Americans? To differ in views and still stand together as brothers and sisters in arms.