Earlier this fall, at a rally for the Republican U.S. Senate candidate Luther Strange, the president set off a firestorm by asserting that NFL team owners should fire the “sons of bitches” who were sitting out the pre-game anthems in some way to bring attention to the plight of African Americans.
Trump and those allied with him asserted that the pre-game peaceful protests were disrespectful to the past and present members of the Armed Forces — even though U.S. soldiers don’t fight for a piece of cloth, but for the rights of the people in the United States.
He carried on against the NFL for weeks following his initial comments, but if he thought that NFL players were going to “sit down and shut up” just because he told them to, he was wrong.
This weekend, although the total number of players participating in the infamous silent pre-game protest was not excessive, a number of players did make some show of solidarity during the anthem.
The Associated Press reports that the organization’s journalists “counted just five players protesting before or during the national anthem in some way before the early-afternoon games.” The protesting players included Philadelphia Eagles safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, along with their teammate, defensive end Chris Long.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews “stayed off the field during the anthem” ahead of the Titans’ game against the Baltimore Ravens, and New York Giants defensive end Oliver Vernon took a knee ahead of his team’s game against the Los Angeles Rams.
Other players took part in the protests in other ways; the AP adds that about a dozen New Orleans Saints players dropped to one knee before the anthem, before rising when the anthem itself was actually played. The New York Daily News adds that at the Giants-Rams game, Rams linebacker Robert Quinn “raised a fist.”
Peaceful protests during the pre-game playing of the anthem were scattered across the NFL before Trump called them out from behind a podium in Alabama, but the protests intensified following the president’s remarks. Many players were moved to participate in a pre-game protest out of solidarity with their teammates against the president.
The president’s remarks against the NFL continued on for weeks, sparking serious introspection on the NFL’s part, as factions in support of and opposed to the protests clashed.
As recently as October 23, Trump tweeted a message against the NFL reading:
‘Two dozen NFL players continue to kneel during the National Anthem, showing total disrespect to our Flag & Country. No leadership in NFL!’
Trump’s messages against the NFL stretch over a period of weeks.
Trump’s incessant attacks on the NFL prompted the organization to consider instituting a rule forcing players to stand for the anthem, although the league’s present course of action is to stick with trying to pressure players into standing without a rule.
During negotiations on the matter earlier this fall, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair quipped that “we can’t have the inmates running the prison,” rebutting those who want the players to be free to protest.
McNair’s comments — which he eventually apologized for — pushed nearly the entire Texans team to take a knee before one of their recent games.
African Americans continue to face injustice across the country, so the protests are not misplaced, no matter how many angry tweets the president wants to post.
Featured Image via Jonathan Ferrey / Stringer/ Getty Images