During his first State of the Union Address on Tuesday, January 30, President Trump reiterated tried and true divisive rhetoric that drove his unorthodox presidential campaign to victory. From expressing support for Guantanamo Bay to instilling a sense of fear that MS-13 is an omnipresent threat in American communities, Trump gave what many saw as a particularly partisan speech that is setting the tone for main themes that will play out in the 2018 midterms.
Though the president did pat himself on the back for the country currently having the lowest unemployment rates for black and Latino Americans, the speech largely ignored the plight of people of color, and completely avoided the topic of sexual harassment and unequal treatment of women. Instead of offering a compassionate path to fixing DACA, Trump offered sensational rhetoric for the need to protect the nuclear family and took aim at chained migration which directly threatens countless American families. He did, however, deliver a jab to NFL athletes (that appeared to be well-received by GOP lawmakers) who have protested during the national anthem by kneeling in an effort to raise awareness racial inequality in America.
While praising the volunteer efforts of Preston Sharp — a 12-year-old from California who celebrated veterans by placing American flags on their graves — President Trump lashed out against American citizens who peacefully and quietly showed their concern for unequal police treatment and brutality.. “Preston's reverence for those who have served our nation reminds us of why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance and why we proudly stand for the national anthem.”
In 2017, President Trump was a vocal critic of the demonstrations during the anthem, calling the players “sons of bitches” for exercising their constitutional right to peacefully protest. He also took credit for having Vice President Mike Pence leave an NFL game after some of the players took a knee as the anthem played. Although Trump and his ilk have declared that not standing for the anthem is disrespectful to the flag and the military, the kneeling athletes have a different opinion. If successfully instilling fear and unrest to squash dissent and concern for the direction the country is going, Trump’s first SOTU was a success.
Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who pioneered the movement of not standing for the anthem, explained the purpose of the protest in 2016.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said in an interview with NFL.com. Kaepernick has remained unsigned since the end of last year’s season, which his supporters feel is an act of retaliation by the league. Still, to the frustration of President Trump, the protests have continued without Kaepernick’s presence on the field.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) clapped back at Trump’s fanged comments about standing for the anthem on Twitter.
Similarly, journalist Joy Reid called out Trump’s message to the kneelers as reinforcing a bygone era of American nationalism.
Likewise, the Cato Institute, a nonpartisan think tank took to twitter to show how Americans really feel about athletes who take a knee.
Although Trump was quick to decry the kneelers, he made no mention of police brutality or the work of social movements such as Black Lives Matter. Instead, he championed the work of the police, saying “We celebrate our police, our military and our amazing veterans as heroes who deserve our total and unwavering support.”
The Democratic Party’s official rebuttal to Trump’s State of the Union was given by 37-year old Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA, member of the Kennedy political dynasty). In his speech, Kennedy, in contrast to Trump, highlighted the work of the #MeToo and Black Livers Matter movements. A number of other leading politics gave a response, including US Sen. Bernie Sanders who focused on the need to fight back at the polls in 2018.
What you can do:
You can support the players who have decided to protest during the anthem throughout the season and those that may kneel during the game on Super Bowl Sunday by sharing the hashtag #TakeAKnee on social media.
Also, racial justice organization, Color of Change is calling on the league to create a players platform that will allow NFL athletes to engage in activism without fear of penalty. If you believe that the players deserve to have their First Amendment rights protected sign their petition today.
And then some:
On Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots will play against each other in the Super Bowl— arguably the biggest televised sporting event in the nation. Given the protests during the anthem throughout the season, all eyes are on the players to whether or not they’ll take a knee once they’re on the field.
Also, pop-rock star Pink will sing the anthem. In addition to being known for aerial acrobatics, the singer has been an outspoken critic of President Trump in the past. Although most musicians tow the line when performing at the Super Bowl, many have taken a stand in the past— such as Beyoncé and Lady Gaga.