‘Bigger than football’: NFL teams demonstrates unity during the national anthem

By Brett Shweky/Sports Director

 

Players from across the entire NFL landscape put on a demonstration during the national anthem this past Sunday, sending a message of unity against President Donald Trump and his comments he made last Friday at a rally in Alabama.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a B—- off the field right now. Out,” Trump said during the rally.

Trump continued during a roar of applause and proceeded with “He’s fired. He’s fired!”

These comments made by President Trump sparked a moment that had never been seen before in the history of American sports.

Each player and team trying to show their unity against Trump decided on a different way execute a demonstration and relay their message.

Some decided to stand on the sideline with their teammates and interlock arms, others opted to kneel down with their head bowed, while three teams, Tennessee, Seattle, and Pittsburgh skipped the anthem entirely and remained in the locker room.

Even a few of the league owners, such as Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, released statements regarding Trump’s comments and also went on the field to participate with the team’s demonstration during the national anthem.

“Our country needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness,” said Ross in his statement. “We need to seek to understand each other and civil discourse instead of condemnation and sound bites. I know our players who kneeled for the anthem and these are smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone.”

The backing from the league owners prompted players who previously had stood for the national anthem into taking a knee with their teammates.

Miami Dolphins tight end Julius Thomas, being one of these players, explained his reasoning for why he decided to now kneel for the anthem and why he will continue to kneel for the rest of the season to the associated press following his game against the New York Jets.

“To have the president trying to intimidate people, I wanted to send a message that I don’t condone that,” said Thomas. “I’m not O.K. with somebody trying to prevent someone from standing up for what they think is important. Lots of people don’t have a voice, and I wanted to tell those folks that they’re not alone.”

Not every player participated in the demonstration, such as Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, who is a former Army Ranger that toured multiple times in Afghanistan before coming to the NFL.

Villanueva was the lone Pittsburgh Steeler that paid homage to the national anthem as he remained in the Soldier Field tunnel during his game in Chicago, while the rest of the team stayed in the locker room.

The Steelers offensive linemen held a press conference following the event and expressed that he had mixed emotions after he stood for the anthem and that he also felt it made him look like an outcast from the rest of the team.

“I see that picture of me standing by myself and I’m embarrassed to a degree, because unintentionally I left my teammates behind,” explained Villanueva. “It wasn’t me stepping forward. I never planned to boycott.”

He continued to explain that he will continue to stand for the national anthem, and proceeded by saying that his team supports his decision.

“People die for the flag. There’s no way else to put it,” said Villanueva. “I wish we could stay home. I wish we could all play ‘Call of Duty’ and not have to go to war. But some men, some women sign up for this tough challenge and they have to do it for the flag. When I see a flag on the mission on the shoulder of a soldier, that reminds me that the guy’s with me.”

Outside of the NFL, other teams and players from around other sporting leagues have also decided to chime in on the recent comments made from President Trump.

This past Saturday Bruce Maxwell, a rookie catcher for the Oakland Athletics, became the first ever Major League Baseball player to kneel during the national anthem.

In the WNBA finals game in Minneapolis last Sunday, the Los Angeles Sparks remained in their locker room during the national anthem, while the Minnesota Lynx interlocked arms on the court.

NASCAR Hall of Fame driver and current owner, Richard Petty, told a member of the associated press that if any driver from his team decides to protest the national anthem they will be fired on the spot and expressed in a press conference his dismay towards the demonstrations.

“Anyone that doesn’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period,” proclaimed Petty. “What got them where they’re at? The United States.”

This movement originally began last season, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick became the first recognized athlete to protest during the national anthem.

Kaepernick, who is no longer employed by a team in the NFL, began this pioneering movement when he explained to reporters following a game that he has pride for our country and the flag however believes there a serious social and racial injustices throughout our nation.

During Kaepernick’s stand, he referenced several different cases however focused on cases that featured black males and females that were shot and brutalized by police members. This became the highlighted message behind his movement and caused him to step out as a public figure.

“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” said Kaepernick to an NFL media member.

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