After President Donald Trump referred to kneeling NFL players as “sons of bitches,” the sports world snapped back.
Story by Alexis Tatum
“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,” President Donald Trump said at an Alabama rally for Republican senator Luther Strange on September 22. “Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!” The comment from the president came just a day after he uninvited NBA champion Stephen Curry from the White House via Twitter when Curry announced that he did not want to visit. Athletes and fans alike responded to Trump’s commentary with powerful rebuttals and demonstrations.
The more popular demonstrations were seen from multiple NFL teams on Sunday and Monday night football. Some teams, most notably the Pittsburgh Steelers, opted to not emerge from their locker room until after the national anthem. Several team members from the New England Patriots and the Jacksonville Jaguars locked arms and held hands. Many NFL players, including every player on the Dallas Cowboys roster as well as owner Jerry Jones, took the iconic kneeling stance started in the 2016 preseason by Colin Kaepernick.
Contrary to popular belief, Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem last September during the end of the Obama presidency. In a statement to NFL media, Kaepernick said “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.” While Kaepernick has not been signed by an NFL team for the 2017 season, his protest has gained momentum and expanded beyond football. Kaepernick has made several contributions to causes he believes are important through his Know Your Rights Camp.
While many NFL players are recently finding their voices, the women of the WNBA have been protesting the national anthem and racial injustice for at least 15 months, according to SB Nation. Four members of the Minnesota Lynx began their protest by wearing ‘Black Lives Matter’ shirts during pregame warm-ups last summer, before Kaepernick began kneeling. The team also held a pregame post conference to discuss police brutality. Since then, the protest has only grown within the organization, despite some players from various teams being fined by the league for dress code violations. The latest protest from the women of the NBA came in the form of absence—the Los Angeles Sparks left the floor for the national anthem while the Lynx locked arms in solidarity before their play-off game.
The WNBA is not the only other sports organization to protest in wake of Trump’s condemnation. Bruce Maxwell, catcher for the Oakland A’s, became the first MLB player to kneel during the anthem on September 25. Though the NBA is not currently in season, several players took to social media to speak out against Trump, most notably Lebron James.
Colin Kaepernick has not made an official response to what some are calling “the Kaepernick Effect.” His mother, however, was quick to respond to Trump indirectly called her a vulgar name by tweeting, “I guess that makes me a proud bitch!”
Several executives, players, coaches and fans have expressed their discontent with President Trump’s attempt to dismiss and outlaw peaceful protest during the national anthem. While everyone has their own opinion on the subject, it is clear that symbolic opposition to domestic injustice is minor in comparison to the disastrous state of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. The entire island has been without power for days. Critics argue that Trump is not focusing on the right issues, especially since he has tweeted about national anthem protests consistently for at least five days with much less regard to Puerto Rico. Hopefully the U.S. territory will soon get the attention it deserves. In the meantime, it seems as though the sports world’s collective demand for social justice has only begun.