As the voice of 16-year-old Samantha Rose echoed the Star-Spangled Banner in the packed FedEx field, in Maryland the home of NFL team Washington Redskins, it was clear that athletes and team owners were showing a united front against President Trump and racial discrimination. The Washington Redskins team stood arm in arm with a few of them kneeling as well. They were aptly supported by the travelling team of Oakland Riders who remained seated during the entire national anthem. The players were protesting against President Trump’s stand of suspending players who kneel during the national anthem. Not only that, the players were protesting against racial discrimination and police brutality against blacks in USA. The players were also protesting against his very own blatant display of racial discrimination.
The scene of players standing arm in arm or kneeling down during the national anthem was not only restricted to viewers watching Washington Redskins VS Oakland Riders. It was a common one, across all the television screens on 24th September. Many NFL teams opted to show their support to #TakeAKnee. This is a campaign President Trump has been targeting for a long time. He did so even on the morning of 24th September. Trump tweeted that NFL should fire all those disrespecting the national anthem by kneeling when it is playing.
President Trump’s tweets were in response to protest by many NFL players during the whole 2016-17 campaign. In 2016-17 they knelt during the national anthem to stage a silent protest against the police brutality and racial inequality. Colin Kapernick, then San Francisco 49ers quarterback started this protest when he first sat down during one of the preseason game in of 2016 campaign and then followed it up kneeling down in the next game. Throughout 2016-17 NFL season, Colin was supported by members of various NFL team.
In an interview given by President Trump, he questioned why the NFL didn’t take action when Kapernick started the protest back in 2016-17. He further said that this inaction helped the protest get bigger and it mushroomed all over. He said, if NFL had suspended Kapernick the first time, the whole controversy would not have happened. NFL too clarified it stands on the issue. NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell, in a press conference said that NFL supports players taking a stand on critical issues. Although, he also cautioned the players saying that the present way of protesting could lead to division. He also cleared that NFL guidelines mention that “players may stand when National anthem is playing” and not should. Thus, players are not violating any rules of NFL.
In 2016 when the protest first started, then President Barack Obama supported Colin Kapernick. He stated that Colin is exercising his constitutional rights to protest and in the process has raised a valid issue of discrimination against blacks. Since then President Obama has been replaced by President Trump, who has been criticised for being soft on white supremacist organization especially after Charlottesville riot, where a car rammed into a protest by anti-racism activists and killed a woman and injured 19 others.
The protest since has grown, frustrating President Trump who views the protest as disrespectful gestures towards National anthem. His tweet, though has only worked as fuel to fire. The phenomenon was witnessed first on 24th September. The protest continued on 22nd October with almost two dozen athletes kneeling during the anthem. The protest did not go unnoticed as President Trump tweeting “Two dozen NFL players continue to kneel during the National Anthem, showing total disrespect to our Flag & Country. No leadership in NFL!”.
Not the First time
Colin Kapernick’s protest by kneeling during National anthem isn’t the only instance when players used their field to protest against racism in the USA. In one of the most controversial moments in the Olympics, American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos presented black power salute on the podium after winning their race. This 1968 Olympics incident is a stance against racial inequality. They too presented the salute during the National anthem.