Mon | Oct 23, 2017

Trump criticisms incite more NFL protests

Published:Monday | September 25, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Several New England Patriots players kneel during the US national anthem before an NFL game against the Houston Texans in Foxborough, Massachusetts, yesterday.

President Donald Trump's criticism of players who protest during the national anthem incited a mass increase in such activism yesterday, with more than 100 NFL players sitting or kneeling, others raising their fists and whole teams standing with locked arms to display unity.

One team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, stayed in the locker room during The Star-Spangled Banner.

Last week across the entire NFL, only four players knelt or sat, and two stood with their fists raised. In the nine early games yesterday, AP reporters counted 102 players kneeling or sitting, and at least three raising their fists.

The reactions reverberated across the Atlantic, where about two dozen players, including Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs and Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette took a knee during the playing of the national anthem before the start of the teams' game at Wembley Stadium in London.

Other players on both teams and Jaguars owner Shad Khan remained locked arm-in-arm throughout the playing of the national anthem and God Save The Queen. No players were kneeling during the British anthem.

 

PROTEST AGAINST POLICE

 

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the first athlete to refuse to stand during the national anthem as a protest to police treatment of minorities last year. This season, no team has signed him, and some supporters believe NFL owners are avoiding him because of the controversy.

That protest movement ballooned yesterday following Trump's weekend rant that began with him calling for NFL protesters to be fired. It continued Saturday with the president rescinding a White House invitation for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, who had said they were considering not attending.

By yesterday, it was one of the main topics of conversation on social media and around the country.

Wading into thorny issues of race and politics, Trump's comments in a Friday night speech in Huntsville, Alabama, and a series of Saturday tweets drew sharp responses from some of the nation's top athletes, with LeBron James calling the president a "bum". Hours later, Major League Baseball saw its first player take a knee during the national anthem.

"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you'd say, 'Get that son of a b**** off the field right now. Out! He's fired," Trump said to loud applause at Friday night's rally, comments he kept echoing over the next two days.

"If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our flag & country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!" the president said in a tweet yesterday morning.

- AP