The protests have increased. They have spiraled from Colin Kaepernick’s initially sitting during the national anthem to kneeling, to being joined by other teammates, and then by players from other teams and other sports. They have evolved into fans protesting from two sides: those who oppose the protests by the players and those who oppose the perceived insensitivity of the NFL, which has blackballed Kaepernick for his views and leadership in civil rights, but has been slow to understand, acknowledge or respect the reasons for his actions.
In an interview, Kaepernick stated, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”
The protests are described as disrespectful to the American flag, but in actuality, the protests are directed at the injustices and hypocrisy of the government that the flag represents.
A variety of people of note have now chimed in. Athletes who have been noticeably quiet have lent their voice. DeMaurice Smith, the head of the NFL Players Association, and Roger Goodell, the NFL’s commissioner, came out in defense of the players as well. The president’s recent comments are responsible for this turn of events. His tweeted response ignited by Stephen Curry’s statement regarding a noninterest in visiting the White House in celebration of his team’s recent NBA championship victory, which is customary, created a need for NFL owners and their public relations staffs to immediately take a hands-on approach to controlling the negative reactions, and the narrative.
“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team,” tweeted the president. “Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore, invitation is withdrawn!”
During his speech the next day in Alabama, Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired,’” causing a fury among athletes, their fans and the public, causing team owners such as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to devise a plan. Jones’ plan? A compromised show of solidarity.
Jones joined his team on the field, interlocking arms with his players, kneeling on one knee before the start of the national anthem for their Monday night game against the Arizona Cardinals. The team and the Cardinals then stood with interlocking arms while the anthem played, as did several other teams throughout the NFL Sunday. Most notable were the New York Jets, whose owner, Woody Johnson, is one of several owners who donated $1 million to the president’s campaign. But not only is Johnson a contributor, he was also appointed by this administration as ambassador to the United Kingdom. He’s working directly for the president, representing him abroad.
Johnson’s brother Christopher, now the Jets CEO, stood with the team, interlocking arms during the playing of Sunday’s national anthem before the start of their game. A statement by him was also released. It said, “It was an honor and a privilege to stand arm-in-arm unified with our players during today’s national anthem. We are very proud of our players and their strong commitment to work in our community to make a positive, constructive and unifying impact.”
“Unbelievable,” said Jets rookie safety Jamal Adams about locking arms with Johnson. “It shows how much he cares about this team; how much he cares about this organization. For him to come up to everybody before the game, one by one and ask if he could. I was all for it. I walked up to him and said, ‘I’m going to stand right next to you.’ I appreciate that. We appreciate that as a team, and it was outstanding.”
There’s uncertainty in Johnson’s statement. There’s content about the wonderfulness of the team’s players, but there’s nothing contained that denounces the disrespect of this team’s players, the league’s players. Nothing definitive. It’s the banana in the tail pipe. At least Odell Beckham, the Giants wide receiver, admits that he’s urinating, although the rest of his thoughts seem somewhat confused.