Trump, Protests and Freedom of Speech
What you need to know:
Colin Kaepernick kneels during the anthem
On August 26, 2016, Colin Kaepernick, then back-up quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers chose to kneel during the National Anthem as a protest against social inequalities in the country.
By the first week of the NFL season, 12 players, in different ways, showed solidarity with Kaepernick in raising awareness of social inequalities, especially police brutality, in the country.
At the end of the season, Kaepernick chose to leave the 49ers in March of 2017. He has yet to resign to a team. His supports claim a blacklist while others draw comparisons to Tim Tebow. Some of his supporters have rallied on his behalf. According to reports, Kaepernick almost had a deal with the Baltimore Raven’s but because of a racists tweet by a girlfriend, the deal was squashed.
According to the polls, 72 percent of American saw his actions as unpatriotic. Although, 64 percent of American think it is within the players constitutional rights (which it is) and did not think they should be punished for their actions.
All of this happened a year ago, so why is it all over the news again, the answer is…
Trump uses profanities at a Rally.
On Friday, September 22, 2017 President Trump was at a campaign rally in Huntsville, Alabama. Trump declared “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when someone disrespects the flag, to say ‘get that son-of-a-b**** off the field right now, out. He’s fired.’” His words were met with cheers in Alabama, but the NFL community reacted quite differently.
The NFL’s Response
By Saturday (9/23) the majority of the NFL teams had responded with statements condemning the remarks of the president. Robert Kraft, which it has been reported in the past is a good friend and agrees politically with the President, had this to say:
Kraft’s response mimicked what most of the other NFL teams said. But was a strongly worded tweet enough?
Baltimore Ravens versus Jacksonville Jaguars in London
The 1st game of the day was held in London, where the first responses to Trumps comment were seen. The Baltimore Ravens all linked arms while some knelt during the National Anthem. All stood during the playing of “God Save the Queen”. Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens explained their actions, “We stand with our brothers. They have the right to protest. We knelt with them today. Nonviolent protest is as American as it gets. We knelt with them today and let them know we are a unified front. There is no dividing us. I guess we’re all sons of b******.”
The Jaguars owner, a political supporter of Trump, locked arm with his team during the playing of the national anthem before the game. Standing with arms locked alongside their team was mimicked by multiple owners across the league. Three teams, the Tennessee Titans, Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburg Steelers chose not to leave the locker room until after the National Anthem had been sung, with the exception of one Steeler.
Alejandro Villanueva and Ben Roethlisberger
Alejandro Villanueva is former Army Ranger who served multiple tours in Afghanistan. He was also the only Pittsburgh Steeler to be seen standing with his hand over his heart for the flag on Sunday. But what most saw as a veteran standing for his beliefs turned into an apology from Villanueva. According to Villanueva, he wanted the opportunity to see the flag while the anthem was playing, by the time he had gotten out far enough he alone was visible and his teammates were not. He apologized for making it look like the team was not behind him (whether he means figuratively or actually I’m not quite sure). His jersey sales have exploded to number one after the image of him was broadcast, however he has only expressed remorse for making his team look like it was not united.
In contrast, the star of the Steelers, their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has since come out with an explanation himself.
I was unable to sleep last night and want to share my thoughts and feelings on our team’s decision to remain in the tunnel for the National Anthem yesterday. The idea was to be unified as a team when so much attention is paid to things dividing our country, but I wish we approached it differently. We did not want to appear divided on the sideline with some standing and some kneeling or sitting.
As a team, it was not a protest of the flag or the Anthem. I personally don’t believe the Anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest. For me, and many others on my team and around the league, it is a tribute to those who commit to serve and protect our country, current and past, especially the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice.
The NFL and President Trump have met with a myriad of responses. Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL said he was proud of how the NFL responded. Some have decried the inherit racism in the negative reactions the protests. An employee at the Buffalo Bill’s stadium immediately quit his job when he saw the players protest and has sworn off ever coming back.
In Washington, a Democrat and Republican co-sponsored a bill that would end federal funding for professional sports facilities. The Bill was introduced in June but has now gained bi-partisan support.
The viewer numbers are also in for Sunday. Sunday Night Football had the worst numbers of the season, 11.6/20. That’s 8 percent lower than last week, meaning not a lot of people tuned in to see how teams chose to respond to Trump or had already had their fill during the day games. These numbers are down 10 percent from last year’s comparable games, and last year saw a decline in viewership from previous years.
Come to your own! Here’s the facts as best I could pull them together, click on the various links and read the opinions of others. But before you come to a decision, be informed.