Throughout the week, the National Football League (NFL) has been in the midst of a major controversy as hundreds of players protest during the national anthem. Rather than standing during the national anthem with their hands covering their hearts, many players have opted to drop onto one knee. The protests first began with former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 to condemn police brutality and racial inequality. But almost overnight, after Trump made some controversial remarks over the weekend, the protests became a statement against President Trump.
The NFL has been criticized for national anthem protests since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during a 2016 preseason game. Kaepernick claimed he was protesting racial injustice and police brutality. Trump has long been upset about the NFL protests, believing that they are disrespectful to both the flag and the troops. But it wasn't until Saturday that Trump finally said something in a rally, and it quickly captured headlines.
You can watch President Trump's remarks at the video below.
On Thursday night, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodger said that NFL protests are about showing unity in the face of President Trump's divisiveness, according to The Hill. The comments came at a profess conference following his team's victory over the Chicago Bears.
“It's never been about the national anthem, it's never been about the military," Rodgers said of the protests. "We're all patriotic in the locker room, we love our troops. This is about something bigger than that: an invitation to show unity in the face of some divisiveness from the top in this country."
Rodger then continued by saying that he is proud of his team and the conflict between the NFL and President Trump. To his mind, the protests are a great stride toward unity and have resulted in a productive national conversation that extends far beyond the locker room.
“Sports and politics have always intersected," he said. “If we can help continue a conversation through demonstration of unity like tonight, I think that's a good thing."
It is important to note that none of the Green Bay or Chicago players appeared to be kneeling during the national anthem on Thursday night. None of the 81,000 fans attending the game linked arms, as some predicted they would, but rather stood saluting or with their hands over their hearts. According to the Washington Post, before the anthem was performed by country music singer Tyler Farr, many fans began chanting "U-S-A-!"
On Thursday, the President of the United States remarked that NFL coaches are "afraid" of their players, and are hence unwilling to do anything about the controversial protests.
“I have so many friends that are owners,” Trump told Fox News in an interview broadcast Thursday. “They’re in a box. I mean I’ve spoken to a couple of them. They say we are in a situation where we have to do something.”
“I think they’re afraid of their players, you want to know the truth. And I think it’s disgraceful,” he continued.
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