Taking a knee: NFL players protest injustices

Trump’s inflammatory comments resulted in league-wide protests.


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Washington Redskins players link arms during the national anthem as a show of protest following the president’s speech.

“We’re proud of our country, we respect our flag,” President Trump said at a rally on September 22nd. “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!'” Trump’s comments were directed at members of the NFL who chose to kneel during the national anthem, among them Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick decided to protest last season and has not been signed to play in a new season.

Kaepernick expressed his displeasure after last football season, saying, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Following Trump’s comments, more members of the NFL, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders and the New England Patriots, participated in similar forms of social protest. Among them were Richard Sherman and the entire Seattle Seahawks team, as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers, who did not enter the field until after the anthem.

The majority of the Denver Broncos refused to stand. Denver Broncos’ linebacker Von Miller was among those who kneeled during the national anthem. He said, “Me and my teammates, we felt like, we felt like President Trump’s speech was an assault on our most cherished right — freedom of speech. So, collectively we felt like we had to do something before this game. […] I have a huge respect for the military and for the protective services — I’ve been to Afghanistan, met real-life super heroes, it wasn’t any disrespect to them, it was for my brothers that have been attacked for things that they do during the game and I felt like I had to join them on this one.”

However, San Francisco 49er Eric Reid believes the original message of Kaepernick’s protests have been lost this season.

Reid knelt with his teammate Kaepernick last football season, and hoped to raise awareness on police brutality, mass incarcerations, and racial inequality. While speaking with Bay Area media, Reid said that this season’s protests were in direct response to President Trump’s protests, and did not address the issues that he and Kaepernick sought to address.

Drews Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints said, “I disagree with what the president said and how he said it. I think it’s very unbecoming of the office of President of the United States to talk like that to the great people like that. And obviously he’s disappointed a lot of people. But as it pertains to the national anthem, I will always feel that if you are an American that the national anthem is the opportunity for us all to stand up together, to be unified and to show respect for our country.”

After large demonstrations by several NFL teams, many scaled back their protests on October 1st, leaving many standing and few kneeling.

As the season progresses, it is expected that protests at the start of the season will come to a halt, leaving few demonstrating the original message Kaepernick hoped to send.