(The Picket)-Players for the NFL and Players Association for the past year and a half have been kneeling and sitting during the playing of the National Anthem to protest police brutality and the inequality that people of color in the United States are facing. This form of protesting was begun by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is now a free agent in the NFL.
Kaepernick was an elite quarterback who had took his team to the Super Bowl in 2013 that ultimately lost to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31. Someone of that stature and pedigree happened to be one of color and initiated a movement that will ultimately be one to talk about for years to come. On Aug. 27th, 2016, Kaepernick told NFL Media, “To me, this is bigger than football and would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies on the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
His actions sparked a serious backlash, but today there is a new story. President Trump charged the NFL players were “disrespecting” the American flag and was furious that the NFL allowed players to kneel during the National Anthem. Trump said the NFL should fire any player who takes a knee during the National Anthem. Trump said NFL owners should respond to players by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!”
Presidents are looked up to by many people, whether Trump believes it or not. His reaction to kneeling players has cost him supports and he likely will continue to face these ongoing controversies.
Many believe that Trump’s reaction has distorted the original cause of the protests. This form of protesting was not because players want to “disrespect” the American flag, but to protest racial inequities and police brutality. Many don’t realize that the NFL is nearly 70 percent African American, and this problem has become such a big story because of all of the blacks protesting.
Sportscaster and analyst Stephen A. Smith on his ESPN show “First Take” said that Trump’s input on the situation is a “hijacking” of the real reason behind the protests.
Looks to be a publicity stunt and the NFL has had a meeting with the owners and the problem has not still not been resolved.
After Kaepernick started kneeling during the National Anthem last season to protest police brutality against African Americans, Malcom Jenkins of The Philadelphia Eagles joined the protest by raising a fist. The fist is a symbol of black power dating back to the days of the Black Panthers and the movement that was formed against racism back in the mid 60s by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale.
Jenkins decided to take his actions after observing a video of white supremacists marching on the University of Virginia’s campus, with what were believed to be Tiki torches and shouting “You will not replace us!” Since this instance Jenkins has become one of the more vocal players and one of the leaders in the activism movement spread across the NFL.
The players are doing nothing but exercising their right of the First Amendment. What Trump is doing is trying to use his considerable power and influence as the president to stop the protests, and what many must understand is that just because we love our country doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything that is going on in our country.
Whether one is for or against the NFL protest we must understand that there are problems that have to be dealt with and what the players are doing is taking initiative in a movement that has everyone in the United States talking about this.
Michael Blackman-Herbert is a student contributor for the Picket.