On Sunday, nearly all of the players for the Houston Texans knelt during the national anthem. These actions followed an ESPN report that stated during a league meeting, team-owner Bob McNair said that the NFL needed to stop the national anthem protests because "We can't have the inmates running the prison." McNair's comments are loaded with racial insensitivities by equating a league that employs predominantly black men—at least 70 percent— with the prison system in the United States, which has higher rates for locking up black people than whites. McNair later apologized for his comments, but the damage has been done—until this happened none of the players on the team had protested during previous games.
Since former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee to protest police brutality and the mistreatment of racial minorities in 2016, there's been a national debate about how much of their personal politics players should share on the field. Kaepernick remains unsigned, which many of his supporters feel is an act of retaliation to silence other players from protesting. However, it seems to have had the opposite effect. More athletes within the NFL, at colleges and high schools, and even internationally, have demonstrated during the anthem.
The protests chafed President Trump, who aggressively went after kneeling players, referring to them as "sons of bitches" and even sent Vice President Mike Pence to a game only to leave in counter-protest once he saw players kneel during the anthem. The president has characterized the protests as both disrespectful to the troops and to the flag, but the players insist that their demonstration— whether taking a knee or raising a fist— is in response to racial inequality.
What you can do:
If you feel that the NFL players should have the right to engage in activism without fear of backlash from team owners or political figures then sign this petition from racial justice organization, Color of Change. By showing your support, you're telling the NFL to create a player's platform that will protect their right to protest and advocate for racial equality through criminal justice reform.
Color of Change also just launched an effort in support of athletes stepping up for their beliefs. Check out their #superpowerchange campaign and consider standing in solidarity with athletes risking it all by standing up to bigotry and hatred.
And then some:
Players besides Kaepernick are feeling the repercussions of engaging in activism on the field as well. In October, the AP reported that Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, said that players who make a display during the anthem will not play. It appears that Jones made good on his word.
Two weekends ago, Damontre Moore protested during the anthem not by kneeling but by raising his fist in the air as the song played— one of two players who continued to demonstrate after Jones' decree — now Moore has been cut from the team. According to NBC Sports, Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett said that the cut had nothing to do with the protest and was entirely based on performance, but not everyone is convinced.