NFL Players & Owners Are Standing Against Donald Trump & For The Right To Take A Knee
For decades, NFL football has been America’s favorite sport. The Super Bowl is routinely the most watched telecast of the year, and many say the league owns Sundays. Despite its popularity, however, the NFL has taken a beating the last several years. Though it has dealt with its controversies related to off field conduct by players for quite some time, recently it is what has been happening on the field that has sent “the shield” spinning. Studies have emerged that have conclusively shown many players suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease found in people who have had multiple head injuries. Just two days ago, it was revealed that former New England Patriot and murder convict, Aaron Hernandez, had advanced stages of CTE at the age of 27, when he took his own life.
In addition to the CTE controversy, which is only growing, last year, quarterback Colin Kaepernick set off a firestorm when he began protesting the repeated and unpunished police killings of unarmed Black civilians, by kneeling during the performance of the national anthem. Kaepernick’s protest was deeply polarizing, among players, owners and fans. At the end of the season, Kaepernick was released from the San Francisco 49ers, and no team has added him to its roster this year. Many see his lack of inclusion as a direct result of his protests, and it has led to a widespread boycott of the NFL, unless Kaepernick is signed by a team. As a result of the many controversies plaguing the NFL–along with hurricanes, changing viewing habits and a litany of other factors–viewership has been down substantially, so far this season.
Part of the reason for the ratings decline also may have been because for the last 2 years, the most watched show on earth has been The Donald Trump Show. Whether as supporters or haters, people have been unable to take their eyes and minds off Trump. Whether on TV, social media, news, fake news, or family discussions, talk of Trump has been inescapable, particularly since his election on November 8, 2017. Yesterday, the show continued, and, ironically, arguably the most divisive person on the planet may have been the one to unite the NFL, its owners and its players.
During a rally in Huntsville, Alabama yesterday, President Trump said “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.'” While the President makes controversial remarks seemingly several times a day, because of the heightened political tension already swirling around the NFL, Trump’s comments struck a nerve and, in a rare move, the league and several owners have now spoken out against Trump and in defense of their players and their rights to protest.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodel said, in a statement, “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.” Trump’s response this evening, via a tweet, was “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!”
Jed York, the CEO of the 49ers team that released Kaepernick after the end of last season said “The callous and offensive comments made by the President are contradictory to what this great country stands for. Our players have exercised their rights as United States citizens in order to spark conversation and action to address social injustice. We will continue to support them in their peaceful pursuit of positive change in our country and around the world. The San Francisco 49ers will continue to work toward bringing communities, and those who serve them, closer together.”
Owners and executives from several other teams, including the New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers also issued statements in support of players protesting and denouncing the President’s comments. While several owners have come out against Trump’s remarks, several others have been strong supporters of the President, in the past. At least six owners donated $1 million each, just for Trump’s inauguration, including Daniel Snyder of the Washington Redskins, Stan Kroenke of the Los Angeles Rams, Shahid R. Khan of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Bob McNair of the Houston Texans, Robert K. Kraft of the New England Patriots and Woody Johnson of the New York Jets.
In addition to causing owners to speak out, Trump also seems to have galvanized players in a way that even Kaepernick could not do last year. According to Complex, at least 50 players intend to stage silent protests by kneeling during the national anthem before tomorrow’s games. The protests are not limited to NFL players, either. As if his comments about NFL players yesterday were not enough, this morning the President doubled down with a tweet in which he also targeted the NBA, specifically the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!,” he said. The Warriors responded with a statement of their own, saying “In lieu of a visit to the White House, we have decided that we’ll constructively use our trip to the nation’s capital in February to celebrate equality, diversity, and inclusion – the values that we embrace as an organization.”
Throughout the flurry of activity this weekend, Colin Kaepernick, the player who galvanized the protests, has remained silent. He also remains without a job in the NFL.