At 6:44 a.m. on Sunday, Donald Trump renewed his demand that NFL owners “fire or suspend” players who kneel during the national anthem in protest. Moreover, Trump called on his supports to boycott games if players continue to protest the National Anthem.
“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”
30 minutes later, Trump later tweeted: “NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”
This news comes after a political rally for Senator Luther Strange (R-Alabama) where President Trump demanded the NFL owners to fire players who kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest. Trump started his tirade against NFL players on Friday night. In his remarks, he alluded to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose decision last season to take a knee sparked national attention to police violence against non-whites. Trump demanded coaches to get the “son of a b—“ players off the field if they continue to kneel.
Those initial remarks, which the President lamented on Sunday morning, triggered reactions from many athletes, coaches, NFL executives, and front offices.
While many favored the form of protest Kaepernick chose, NFL owners, players, and coaches issued statements defending the rights of players to express themselves in ways they are passionate about including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA’s executive director, DeMaurice Smith. The two spoke on Saturday on behalf of their organizations.
Early Sunday morning, nearly half of the NFL’s 32 owners issued a statement. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who a vocal Trump supporter and seven-figure donor to the Trump’s election campaign, wrote that he was “disappointed by the tone of the comments” President Trump issued on Friday.
“There is no greater unifier in this country than sports and, unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics,’ Kraft wrote in his statement. “I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal. Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.”
Other NFL teams voiced their support of their players’ decision to protest and express themselves including the Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, and New York Giants. That said, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, had no comment “at this time,” according to the Washington Post.
Seattle Seahawk’s head coach Pete Carroll was the first to issue a statement on the Trump’s comments. On Twitter and Facebook, he said, “there’s no longer a place to sit silently. It’s time to take a stand.”
Carroll continued, “We stand for love and justice and civility. We stand for our players and their constitutional rights, just as we stand for equality for all people. We stand against divisiveness and hate and dehumanization. We are in the midst of a tremendously challenging time, a time longing for healing. Change needs to happen; we will stand for change. May we all have the courage to take a stand for our beliefs while not diminishing the rights of others, as this is the beating heart of our democracy. As a team, we are united in a mission to bring people together to help create positive change. We can longer remain silent.”
Pittsburgh Steelers are finding other ways to handle the National Anthem protest. The Washington Post reports, Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said in an interview on Sunday that his players will remain the locker room during the playing of the national anthem before the game in Chicago.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended Trump’s comments about the NFL players demonstrating during the national anthem on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Mnuchin said, “This is about respect for the military, the first responders,” he said. “I think the president can use whatever language he wants to use.”
Mnuchin also added that this is the first of more actions to improve race relations in America.