“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!”
At a rally in Huntsville, Ala. on Sept. 22, President Donald Trump began a feud with the NFL in response to football players kneeling during the national anthem. The following Sunday, many NFL players responded by taking a knee in unprecedented numbers during the national anthem. Each player made his own decision; some knelt while others stood and locked arms with their teammates.
Nearly every team demonstrated or issued a statement in response to the president’s comments. The entire Pittsburgh Steeler team stayed in the locker room during the national anthem with the exception of offensive tackle and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villaneuva who stood alone on the field.
Some team owners and coaches showed support for their players. Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis told players not to protest on the job but on Sunday said, “I can no longer ask our team to not say something while they are in a Raiders uniform. The only thing I can ask them to do is do it with class.”
This protest has been a year in the making. It began last season on Aug. 14, when Quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers sat during the national anthem and then kneeled in subsequent games creating a controversy.
When asked on Aug. 28 why he knelt during the national anthem, Kaepernick said,
“There’s a lot of things that need to change. One specifically? Police brutality. There’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable.” He continued saying, “I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up.”
After the 2016 season, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers and became a free agent. He has not been able to find another job with a team in the league since.
“This isn’t some amateur. This guy brought the 49ers to the Super Bowl (2013) and he risked that level of his profession to put the world on notice so that everyone knows this is what our culture, our race is going through and y’all don’t want to do anything about it,” said Chronicle sports writer Tru Armstrong in an interview on KDUX Web Radio.
On Aug. 25, at an away game with the Arizona Cardinals, the Dallas Cowboys also took a unique stance on the issue. They locked arms and took a knee prior to the national anthem. Boos could be heard throughout the stadium.
What will ultimately result from this recent clash of politics and sports is yet to be seen, but has awakened a national conversation about race, patriotism and sportsmanship.