President Donald Trump generated more conflict over the weekend, this time internally. At a rally in Alabama on Friday night, he criticised NFL players who kneel in peaceful protest during the pre-match national anthem. Trump called for the protestors to be fired or suspended, and urged NFL fans to boycott future games until the players stop protesting. “If you see it, leave the stadium, I guarantee things will stop,” he declared.
The symbolic form of protest began in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, knelt during the Star Spangled Banner in protest against the discrimination of African Americans. Since then, other NFL players have adopted the method of protest, sparking Trump’s fury.
Retaliating against Trump’s belligerent comments, more than two dozen players from the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars took to their knees while the national anthem played at Wembley Stadium, London on Sunday. The move was the largest ever in an NFL game, bolstered by the addition of the standing players linking arms.
Other teams have joined in protest, including members of the New England Patriots who knelt before a recent game and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who chose to avoid the national anthem altogether before their match against the Chicago Bears. Bruce Maxwell of Oakland Athletics became the first Major League baseball player to kneel in a game on Saturday night.
Voicing their determination, the Ravens posted a message from owner Steve Bisciotti on Twitter this morning, stating “we recognise our players’ influence. We respect their demonstration and support them 100 per cent. All voices need to be heard. That’s democracy in its highest form.”
Trump’s tirade extended to the NBA when he withdrew the Golden State Warriors’ invitation to the White House after Stephen Curry said he would not attend. The NBA star explained his position, stating that he could not stand for “the things that [Trump’s] said and the things that he hasn’t said in the right times.”
New York Knicks player LeBron James also spoke out against the President. In a video posted on Twitter last night, he said Trump was “using sports as the platform to try to divide us,” and expressed frustration at the President’s ignorance and racial disrespect.