The National Anthem at an NFL game is almost as watched and debated as the game itself thanks to player protests. The protests became such a big deal that the NFL was forced to make rules for players regarding the anthem. But does anyone really understand what or why the players were protesting, to begin with? Let’s try to take a look back to when it all started and try to understand what and why NFL players are protesting.
How Did it All Start?
To get a clear picture of when these protests started, we need to take a ride in a time machine back to August of 2016. San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the National Anthem on August 14 and August 20, but because he wasn’t in uniform, no one noticed. The protests didn’t become a news story until a Niner’s news reporter tweeted (of course) out a photo of Kaepernick sitting during the National Anthem during a preseason game on August 26. The NFL world hasn’t been the same since, and Kaepernick’s promising NFL career would change drastically.
Kaepernick gets credit for starting the protests, but other NFL players and athletes around the world quickly joined in. On September 1st of that year, Kaepernick’s teammate Eric Reid joined him in the protest, but this time the players were taking a knee. Players and teams from around the league quickly showed some signs of protests, and the league knew they were in big trouble. Non-NFL fans probably got sick of the league in a few days after news of the protests were covered around the clock.
What Are They Protesting?
While blasting NFL players for protesting quickly became the norm, most people didn’t even understand why they started protesting, to begin with. Kaepernick began protesting as a way to bring attention to social and racial inequality and injustice in America. The players began to take a stand after a strand of incidents of police brutality against African Americans had occurred throughout the country. Kaepernick expressed his decision to kneel stating, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” People all over the country quickly bashed the players for disrespecting the flag, but they needed to listen and understand the reason for the protests to begin with.
Protests Were Never About the Flag
It can be easy to see how an uneducated person could view these protests as an unpatriotic act, but that isn’t the case at all. The NFL players were not disrespecting the flag or our country by kneeling during the anthem, but they quickly got accused of doing so. Kaepernick actually consulted a former Green Beret, Nate Boyer, who suggested that he kneel instead of sit during the anthem. A former green beret! The NFL players weren’t doing this to cause a scene or anger fellow Americans, they were doing this to try to spark change in the country. Athletes have a long history of using their platform for political beliefs, and this was the best way that Kaepernick and his supporters to get their message across. NFL players weren’t even required to be on the field for the National Anthem until 2009, but now the world was demanding that they stand.
What Was the Reaction To the Protests?
The biggest and most ridiculous response to these protests came from the President himself, Mr. Donald Trump. Trump quickly turned to Twitter to demand that protesting players be fired from the NFL, and his followers quickly followed suit. Advertising companies started to pull out of their agreements with the NFL, and businesses all over the country made statements in regards to the protests. The NFL was losing money due to these protests, and that didn’t make the rich and powerful owners happy. The NFL knew that they needed to come up with an answer and a response to these actions, and they did their best to stop the backlash.
Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
NFL owners didn’t follow the advice from President Trump of firing protesting players, but the league did issue a statement on the issue. The NFL issued a ruling in May that requires that players standing on the sideline must stand for the anthem, but they also gave the players the options of remaining in the locker room. The players filed a grievance after this ruling came down, and there is still a debate going on about what should be done.
What is Happening Now?
Probably the biggest effect of this entire situation is that Colin Kaepernick has basically been banished from the NFL. Kaepernick was released by the San Francisco 49ers shortly after the protests began, and he has not been able to find another job. There are teams looking for competent backup quarterbacks all over the NFL, but Kaepernick remains unsigned and can’t even get a tryout with a team. The Redskins are starting Mr. Butt Fumble himself, Mark Sanchez, and Kaepernick is chilling at home on the couch.
Eric Reid, the man who first supported Kaepernick, is back in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers. Reid was signed by the team earlier this season, but he still believes he is being targeted by the NFL. The safety believes that he continues to be fined by the league for filing a collusion case against the NFL for his treatment by owners. It is unclear what will come of the collusion case or recent fines, but at least it appears that Reid has a future on the field in the NFL.
The backlash for the NFL protests has died down significantly, and the anthem isn’t shown on NFL broadcasts anymore. Most fans who claimed to swear off the league during the protests have come back in full force because well, the NFL rules. The league is still the most popular sport in America, and the NFL continues to grow in popularity and revenue. The protests and backlash have died down, but expect another political issue to find its way into professional sports in the near future. And when it does, you can expect to see President Trump tweeting and fans complaining.