Republicans might be on the verge of passing some kind of tax reform as part of President Trump’s agenda, but that topic is far less interesting than the current raging debate over NFL players protesting during the National Anthem. President Trump staring the outrage last Friday when he made comments during an Alabama rally that the NFL owners should get that “son of a bi***” off the field for taking a knee during the anthem.
Here were are in the firestorm, six days later, at the start of Week 4 in the National Football League. Thursday Night Football kicks off later with Green Bay vs. Chicago, a longstanding rivalry. However, it’s the “anthem plans” that have fans fuming mad at the league, owners, and players:
A request by Green Bay Packers players for fans to join them in a show of unity during the national anthem before their game Thursday apparently did little to calm the debate.
Packers fans on Wednesday continued to blast the NFL, the team and players for what they perceive as showing disrespect for the nation, the flag, the military or the national anthem by sitting, kneeling, remaining in the locker room or locking arms during the national anthem. Supporters say players are peacefully exercising their free speech rights on the best stage available.
“We’ve had a steady stream of feedback beginning Monday morning and it continued into Wednesday. We’ve heard on both sides of the matter,” said Aaron Popkey, Packers director of public affairs. “We take note of their concerns.”
The Packers play the Chicago Bears at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in a nationally televised game that follows a weekend when all but one NFL team staged some show of unity or protest.
If you ask any of the players taking the knee, they will tell you they are not protesting the flag, or the anthem, or America in general. If you’ll recall, the original kneeling started as a protest against police brutality with San Francisco 49ers Quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. However, with the President adding his two cents to the matter, the protest has now been mislabeled as a protest of the National Anthem or the flag itself.
The sports news website SBNation attempted to answer the question directly from players as to why they felt so strongly in taking a knee during the National Anthem:
Players are protesting the injustices people of color still face in America today. Eric Reid, who protested with Kaepernick during 2016 (and still is in 2017), wrote an op-ed in The New York Times that explained why they took a knee:
“We spoke at length about many of the issues that face our community, including systemic oppression against people of color, police brutality and the criminal justice system. We also discussed how we could use our platform, provided to us by being professional athletes in the N.F.L., to speak for those who are voiceless.”
“After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former NFL player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.”
Whether you agree or not with the tactic, clearly some thought was put into it. Sitting on the bench seemed disrespectful, so the action of kneeling seemed like a worthy action to simultaneously respect the importance of the Anthem, but also point out what Kaepernick and others feel was a serious injustice in American society.
Well, fast forward from the 2016 season to the 2017 season, and here we are with the issue now becoming a nationally debated topic, with the President at the helm fueling the fire.
Polling on the subject among the public at large is mixed, though most polls seem to find that the majority of those polled agree with the President that the protests during the Anthem are inappropriate.
However, polls also show that Americans think the President has more important things to tackle (no excuse for the pun), and don’t think players should be fired if they choose to participate in the #TakeAKnee protest:
Seventy-six percent of those who think it’s inappropriate said players should only protest outside of their professional life. Another 13 percent think they shouldn’t protest at all and 8 percent think they should find a different way to protest during football games.
Still, only 30 percent of Americans think players who kneel during the anthem should be fired from their team.
The poll was conducted from Sept. 25 to 26 among 1,000 people. The margin of error is 4.1 percent.
The move by Trump to attack the NFL is likely a calculated one, according to Politico:
Trump’s clash with the NFL is extending into its fourth day, and while it’s pulling attention from heated debates on health care and tax reform, those around the president say he sees the issue as a way to reconnect with his base.
“He knows it’ll get people stirred up and talking about it,” a senior administration official said. [Emphasis added]
The official added the Trump fears his supporters may be feeling neglected after he decided to not immediately cut off protections for undocumented young immigrants known as Dreamers and after he cut a deal with Democrats on the debt ceiling and government funding.
People are in fact stirred up, and talking about it. Where it ends is anyone’s guess. So far, the NFL has felt a minor crunch in ratings, and there are legions of angry fans on social media posting videos showing their season tickets and favorite jerseys being trashed and/or burned. Whether the numbers amount to a serious dent in league revenue will likely determine the resolution.