NFL Decision to Allow Anthem Kneeling Draws Trump Rage
Trump tweeted that all players should stand during the anthem, in contrast with the NFL's decision
As part of its turn-around on racial justice, the NFL will now allow players to kneel during the national anthem before games in protest, as first pioneered by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. That reversing of course — the league previously had barred players from kneeling, giving them the option, instead, to wait in the locker room if they did not want to stand during the anthem — did not sit well with President Donald Trump, the protests’ most outspoken critic.
Trump did as Trump usually does, and took to Twitter on Friday night in response to Drew Brees taking back his anti-protest stance from earlier in the week. Trump reinforced his belief that players should stand during the anthem:
…We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag – NO KNEELING!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2020
He added a tweet late on Sunday night:
Could it be even remotely possible that in Roger Goodell’s rather interesting statement of peace and reconciliation, he was intimating that it would now be O.K. for the players to KNEEL, or not to stand, for the National Anthem, thereby disrespecting our Country & our Flag?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 8, 2020
Trump has a history of decrying the protests; two years ago, he told players who were kneeling that “maybe you shouldn’t be in this country” if they felt the need to protest systemic racism and police brutality during the national anthem. He also called Kaepernick a “son of a bitch” and said that the Niners ownership should fire him.
For his part, Brees replied directly to Trump on Instagram on Saturday, saying that the flag discourse is distracting from the real problems in this country:
View this post on Instagram
To @realdonaldtrump Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been. We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities. We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform. We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when? We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us.
One thing is for sure: Trump will not let this go, particularly when the league returns to action, which looks like it will be this fall, as states around the country begin to open following the coronavirus pandemic. With the NFL reversing course so starkly, the kneeling protests will surely be a hot button issue once the 2020 season kicks off.
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