National anthem protests pick up steam

Devon Greene, Assistant Sports Editor

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President Donald Trump caught the sports world on fire this weekend as he took a stand with more vigor and passion on NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem than he did about the neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan rally in Charlottesville, Virgina on Aug. 13.

Trump attended a rally in Huntsville, Alabama on Saturday where he specifically called out NFL players for kneeling during the National Anthem and their protests that are protected by the First Amendment.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a (expletive) off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired,’” Trump said. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country.”

These asinine, incendiary, divisive comments were met with outrage and immediate pushback from the entire sports community. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement on Saturday following the statement by the president.   

“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture,” Goodell said in the statement. “There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”

NFL players like Aaron Rodgers, LeSean McCoy, Martellus Bennett and more have spoken out against these comments in one way or another. The players’ actions spoke volumes on Sunday. There were more players kneeling than ever, along with teams locking arms. The Tennessee Titans, Seatle Seahawks,and all but one Pittsburg Steeler did not even come out to the field during the National Anthem.

A pleasant surprise that was seen yesterday was the support of owners and general managers standing with their players in support. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan both locked arms with their teams during the National Anthem. This was important.

Players need to know that they can rely on their owner and be assured that if they feel they need to protest the actions of the buffoon in the White House or the police brutality, they will still have a job and can afford to support their family.

The NFL was not the only target of the 45th President over the weekend. He also caused friction within the NBA community. A tradition that has been in place for years is a championship team being invited to the White House to celebrate their massive achievement. Warriors’ point guard Stephen Curry spoke to the media on the Warriors media day on Friday.

“My views haven’t changed at all. I don’t know if anybody’s changed.” Curry said. “But that’s where I stand right now. I don’t want to go. That’s my nucleus of my belief.”

The Warriors were going to vote as a team if they wanted to attend the White House celebration before the president tweeted early Saturday morning.

“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.” Trump said on Twitter. “Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”

The Warriors were obviously surprised and released a statement firing back at the president. “While we intended to meet as a team at the first opportunity we had this morning to collaboratively discuss a potential visit to the White House, we accept that President Trump has made it clear that we are not invited. We believe there is nothing more American than our citizens having the right to express themselves freely on matters important to them. We’re disappointed that we did not have an opportunity during this process to share our views or have open dialogue on issues impacting our communities that we felt would be important to raise. In lieu of a visit to the White House, we have decided that we’ll constructively use our trip to the nation’s capital in February to celebrate equality, diversity, and inclusion – the values that we embrace as an organization.”

The biggest NBA star and arguably the most powerful African-American athlete in the country, LeBron James, also chimed in on the ban of the Warriors from the White House.

“(You) bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going! So therefore ain’t no invite,“ James said. “Going to [the] White House was a great honor until you showed up!”

James went more in depth in a video posted to his company Uninterrupted.

“I think it’s basically at a point where I’m kind of just a little frustrated because this guy that we’ve put in charge has tried to divide us once again, and obviously we all know what happened with Charlottesville and the divide that caused. Now, it’s even hitting home for me more because he’s now using sports as the platform to try to divide us.” James said. “We all know how much sports brings us together, how much passion it has, how much we love and care, and the friendships and everything that it creates. For him to try to use this platform to divide us even more, it’s not something I could stand for and it’s not something I could be quiet about.”

NBA stars have a little more leeway on their social media sites due to their organization being more progressive than the NFL. Houston Rockets’ point guard Chris Paul questioned the motives of the president.

“With everything that’s going on in our country, why are YOU focused on who’s kneeling and visiting the White House???” Paul said. “And I doubt he’s man enough to call any of those players a son of a (expletive) to their face…”

The sports world has fired back at comments made by the childish, petty president who has continually tried to marginalize and belittle protests against police brutality and the struggle of minorities in America.

The right of protest founded this country, and Donald Trump isn’t about to take it away from our athletes who finally feel empowered enough to exercise their fundamental American rights.

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