Since the beginning of the 2016 National Football League season, the American public has seen the act of kneeling or sitting during the National Anthem. This started as Colin Kaepernick, who was the San Francisco 49’ers quarterback, began to peacefully protest the racial oppression he saw in America.
Kaepernick sat down on the bench at the first 2016 preseason game. Sitting turned into kneeling next to his standing teammates; Nate Boyer, former Green Beret and long snapper at the time, “talked it over” with Kaepernick and convinced him to at least kneel next to his teammates.
These actions caused numerous Americans to speak out, some people in favor and some opposed. Former President Barack Obama spoke out at the time in full support of young people being active in an argument rather than sitting on the sidelines doing nothing.
However, some people – including military men and women – are against the act of kneeling as it can be received as a show of disrespect to the fallen and current serving military forces.
President Trump called for the NFL to create a policy which does not allow players to have the option to kneel during the National Anthem. The President encouraged players to link arms as a substitute to kneeling, in order to still support the troops.
“They were fighting for our country, they were fighting for our flag, they were fighting for our National Anthem,” said Trump.
President Trump stirred the pot by referring to the players using a crude phrase and calling for those who kneel to be fired by the owner of the team.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners,” Trump said, “when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘He’s fired!’”
This caused more players to speak out and join the symbolic protest by either linking arms or kneeling. Some teams and organizations avoided this debate altogether by simply keeping the players and staff in the locker room during the National Anthem. The Pittsburgh Steelers were among one of these teams, but a lone Steelers player named Alejandro Villanueva came out for the National Anthem. Villanueva is a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Afghanistan.
“This National Anthem ordeal has sort of been out of control,” said Villanueva. “Every single one of my teammates is extremely supportive and extremely patriotic. I can honestly say that.”
This has most likely also contributed to the NFL’s TV ratings. The overall ratings from the start of the 2017 season have been down 10 percent in comparison to last year. Reportedly, after Trump’s comments and the media coverage, the numbers sank another five percent for the following week’s games. Now Americans are just sitting on their couches waiting for the next controversial move.