Trump Slanders NFL protests by: Jocelyn Jones

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Last year, during a preseason game at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California, Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49er’s stayed seated during the national anthem, in turn shocking not only the entire country, but the world as well.

 

Kaepernick, in a later press conference stated why he stayed seated. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses 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,” said Kaepernick.

 

Over the course of last season, there were a few other NFL players who joined Kaepernick in his peaceful protest like Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Jeremy Lane of the Seattle Seahawks, but otherwise the majority of players at the heed of the owners, and front office officials did not kneel. However, it was not until the past weekend, on friday Sept 22, at a campaign rally in Alabama, when president Donald Trump made a very offensive comment directed towards the players of the NFL, and their families,  who were kneeling during the anthem that the NFL ownership had something to say.  

 

The rally the President Trump attended on Friday was for Luther Strange, a candidate endorsed by Trump for the vacant seat in the state senate left by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Trump during his speech mentioned the players in the NFL who were kneeling during the anthem. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a (expletive) off the field right now. He is fired. He’s fired!,”” said Trump.

There was an immediate firestorm of controversy and backlash after the comments. Athletes in various sports, and celebrities spoke out against Trump from running back Reggie Bush, to rapper J. Cole. NFL teams and owners released statements on saturday condemning President Trump’s remarks. And on sunday, there were various players that kneeled, and even more players locking arms along with some of the owners displaying a show of “unity”, while three NFL teams; the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Tennessee Titans, and the Seattle Seahawks didn’t even take the field during the anthem.

 

But this poses the question, what are they unifying against? . In one speech, Trump has changed the entire narrative of the protest and turned the focus away from the actual issue, which is racism in the United States and turned it into disrespecting the flag, and the military.  The national anthem was not played at sporting events up until 1918 during the World Series. This was during WWI, and provided a sense of nationalism and patriotism during a time of war and has continued since then. However up until 2009, in the NFL players stayed in the locker room during the national anthem for primetime games that were nationally televised. According to CNN, in a report released in 2015 by Senators John McCain, and Jeff Flake, found that between 2012 and 2015 the Department of Defense had spent about $6.8 million dollars on what they called “paid patriotism”. The money was spread out between 50 pro teams in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR, and others, and in return the teams displayed moments of nationalism during the presentation of the flag, the honoring of military members, and other military moments..

 

The whole point of Colin Kaepernick’s protest last season was to speak out against police brutality and racial inequality. In a locker room interview last season, Kaepernick clarified that he was not protesting against the flag, or the men and women who have fought and died to protect his first amendment rights. The owners of the NFL never spoke out against Trump until he insulted the NFL, in fact six owners donated one millions dollars towards Trump’s inauguration, and despite the statements released last weekend, and the showing of “unity”, what Kaepernick protested against, is on full display throughout the United States. And what is even more telling, is the fact that Colin Kaepernick is still without a job for daring to stand up for what he believed in, despite the consequences. Only time will tell if the majority in America, will be able to look past their privilege and try to understand what it’s like to be a person of color in the United States, and help in the fight against racism.

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