Sunday football became unimaginably more interesting after President Trump attacked NFL players at a speech on Friday in Alabama while stumping for his preferred Senate candidate, Luther Strange. At Friday's rally, Trump said: "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He's fired! He's fired!'"
The president then sent a series of tweets throughout the weekend, reiterating that the NFL should fire players who kneel during the national anthem.
President Trump also slammed NBA star and two-time MVP Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors for publicly opposing his stance on the issue. In his tweet bashing Curry, President Trump seemed to disinvite all of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from attending the traditional White House visit given to a championship team.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a response to the president's tweets, defending the rights of professional football players to engage in protest how they saw fit during the national anthem—including taking a knee. A number of NFL managers have publicly voiced opposition to Trump, and the NFL ran a special unity ad during last night's games.
Goodell's response to the president was pointed, though the issue becomes complicated in regards to the non-response to quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The former NFL-er was seemingly blacklisted from the league for kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to raise awareness about police brutality and racial injustice.
Kaepernick's actions drew praise for some and controversy from others, and he remains an unsigned to a team—unusual for an athlete as his level. In response, Kaepernick supporters held a rally in front of the NFL headquarters in August, demanding that Kaepernick be hired and to put a policy in place that would protect players from being penalized for political protests.
Now professional athletes in both the NFL and NBA are speaking up about the president's comments from this weekend.
LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers had Curry's back, tweeting to the president.
James then took to Instagram to further explain his tweet, saying that he felt the president was using sports a way to create racial divisions in the country.
Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets also threw his support behind Curry with tweets of his own.
Richard Sherman, cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks—who has been the target of racism within the league as well— condemned the President's behavior online.
As of Sunday, NFL players are reacting to Trump's aggression in different ways. During the anthem some players continued to kneel, others stood while locking arms and some stayed in their locker rooms. The President has now called for a boycott of the NFL, and many fans are conflicted on where they stand on supporting the issue or their teams.
What you can do about it:
For fans looking to support players that may be putting their careers on the line by talking about controversial political matters, here's how you can help.
- Stand in solidarity with the players who are taking stance by sharing their message on social media - share your support using the hashtag #takeaknee.
- Show your solidarity with Kaep by supporting his charitable causes such as the organizations from his Million Dollar Pledge and the Know Your Rights camp.
- Learn about the history between the national anthem and the NFL. Players weren't always on the field while the song played, which is a tradition that started in 2009.
- Donate to their philanthropies, such as the Lebron James Family Foundation by LeBron. These celebrities and more are using their platforms for social good.
- Support organizations like the ACLU that start up for free speech, and organizations like the NAACP which actively support social and racial justice efforts.
- Sign the petition made by racial justice organization, Color of Change, to Support a Player's Platform for Racial Equality and Criminal Justice Reform.
- Whatever you do, don't behave like the Patriots fans who booed players during the Sunday night game for protesting the anthem by kneeling or standing and locking arms.
And then some:
It's no small detail that the vast majority of NFL players are black, and the President's response to the events of Charlottesville that left one woman dead is still fresh in many people's minds. The racial undertones of the weekend's controversy will be debated for weeks.
In the meantime, a number of advocacy groups are speaking up and activating their constituencies. . Check out what the ACLU and NAACP had to say.