Last season, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began to kneel while the National Anthem was being played before the games to bring awareness to police brutality against Black Americans. His action made national headlines, but very few NFL players protested to the same fervor.
Over a year later, several players throughout the NFL protested during the national anthem, for the divisive ideals of inequality in the White House.
During a speech he made in Alabama, President Donald Trump addressed NFL players who protested during the Star Spangled Banner, saying how league owners should “get that son-of-a-b**ch off the field.” As the Golden State Warriors prepared to visit the White House to celebrate their 2017 championship, Stephen Curry declined on attending the visit and Trump responded over Twitter by uninviting him.
These actions sparked much outrage throughout the sports world. Several NBA players expressed their grievances of Trump on social media, four-time NBA MVP Lebron James called Trump a “bum,” while NBA icon Kobe Bryant tweeted that Trump’s “name alone creates division and anger.” Nine-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul gave Trump the hashtag #StayInYoLane.
Sunday, September 25, NFL teams either took a knee, linked arms or sat down during the play of the National Anthem. Several players from the Chargers, including NFL champion Brandon Mebane and defensive end Chris McCain, sat while the rest of the team linked arms.
Amid shrill cries from the crowd to stand up, Bolts defensive end Melvin Ingram took a knee. Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston, tight end Travis Kelce also took knees.
Although head coach Anthony Lynn expressed that he did not want to mix politics with sports, he supported his players use of the first amendment.
“We talked about it last night. Since everyone was talking about it, I felt like I had to address it with the team and we decided to lock arms and show unity and I think most of us did that,” Lynn said. “Those guys that didn’t do it, I respect their rights to express themselves the way they did.”
Other professional leagues also participated in anthem protests. Players of the WNBA have been the most vocal of any league. Last year, teams wore Black Lives Matter shirts and hosted a media black-out, only talking about racial injustices.
Before battling in game one of the WNBA Finals, the Minnesota Lynx linked arms and the L.A. Sparks stayed in the locker room until the Star Spangled Banner was finished.
“We all have watched television today and our social media feeds and we know this is an interesting time in our country,” said WNBA President Lisa Borders in the pregame press conference. “Let me just say our Commissioner, my colleague and my friend Adam Silver put out a statement yesterday and I want you all to know that I personally believe all of us stand in full support with Adam, our big brother – the NBA – and our entire enterprise.”
Oakland Athletics rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first Major League Baseball player to kneel for the National Anthem, during their Saturday game against the Texas Rangers.
The Pittsburg Steelers, except for offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, did not come out of their locker room until after the national anthem. The Seattle Seahawks released a statement stating how the entire team would not be participating in the national anthem.
Some players and staff from the Miami Dolphins wore shirts with the hashtag #ImWithKaep on them during their pregame warmups.
Even players from the Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Baltimore Ravens game in London protested. Ravens legend Ray Lewis kneeled with ten current players, including linebacker Terrell Suggs, defensive back Lardarius Webb, and wide receiver Mike Wallace.
Coaches and owners of teams also protested, linking arms with players. Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell and owner Marth Firestone united with their players, according to “M Live Michigan.”
The Cleveland Browns and the New England Patriots had 20 players each who took knees. NFL’s most coveted quarterback and Trump supporter Tom Brady linked arms with his teammates, Mic reports. NFL champion linebacker Von Miller was one of the 32 Denver Broncos players who knelt, according to the Denver Post.
Kaepernick spent the entire season kneeling, donating money to organizations, and openly expressing his opinion. The question in the weeks to come is to see if players can maintain the momentum of protesting.