BY OLIVIA MITTLEMAN
Since Sept. 24, several players in the NFL have taken a knee or locked arms during the playing of the national anthem in protest against what they see as social or political injustices.
The protests have spread to players in other sports as well as to some team owners. President Donald Trump has made statements and issued multiple tweets in reaction to the protests.
On Friday, Sept. 22, Trump spoke at a rally in Huntsville, Ala. According to the Associated Press he 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.”
“I thought the language he used towards the players was uncalled for,” said senior Alex Padalino.
On Saturday, Sept. 23 members from the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars took a knee during the national anthem prior to their game at Wembley Stadium in London. Players who did not take a knee stood and locked arms.
Players did not kneel during the British national anthem.
Trump responded to the protesters via twitter.
“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues,” he tweeted, “he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED.”
Rob Coloney, Director of Student Experience for the Jack Welsh College of Business, said protesters aren’t disrespecting the flag.
“These athletes are not protesting the anthem,” said Coloney. “I think that there’s a really strong separation in our country between the understanding of that truth and the myth of, ‘they hate the national anthem and the flag.’ That’s not true.”
On Sunday, Sept. 24 some players, coaches and owners reacted to Trump’s comments and tweets.
More than 200 NFL players chose to protest by sitting or kneeling during the national anthem. In addition, players who stood protested by raising their fists. According to the Associated Press, about 1 in 8 players did not stand for the anthem.
“Athletes in general are getting more engaged politically,” said sports media Professor Andrew Miller. “They’re taking advantage of their role as people on a nationally-televised broadcast.”
Miller said football has a teamwork narrative. “By Trump attacking the players, the owners responded,” he said.
At a handful of games, owners stood in solidarity with their teams and locked arms during the anthem.
Though owners backed their players’ decisions, many are Trump supporters. According to the Associated Press, more than seven owners contributed at least $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee.
Trump commented on the NFL protests on Sept. 24, tweeting, “Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable.”
At other games, players who were standing placed a hand on the shoulder of their teammates who knelt to show their support.
“I will never sit during the anthem. But will I support somebody who uses that time to protest the inequalities that they feel they have seen in their communities? Absolutely I will support that person.” said Coloney.
Some players, such as those on the Miami Dolphins, protested with their pre-game apparel choices. Players wore black shirts with #IMWITHKAP across the front in support of free agent Colin Kapernick.
Kapernick, who is no longer employed by the NFL, was the first player to kneel in protest last year.
“In the beginning, I think these protests were about race and equal rights for all. If we look at Kapernick, he did it for the equality of various races,” said Padalino. “Now, these protests have a whole new meaning. They are in response to a personal attack by the President of the United States.”
In addition to the protests at NFL games, protests also took place at other professional sporting events.
During the first game of the WNBA Finals, the Los Angeles Sparks walked onto the court after the national anthem. The first MLB player to protest, Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland A’s, took a knee on Sunday. NBA players tweeted about their disappointment with the President’s comments.
“These athletes are social figures, role models, and mentors,” said Coloney, “If a conversation could be set up to talk about and get on the same page it would make us appear unified as a nation.”