Trump vs the NFL


Emma Olsen, Contributor

In the past few days, Donald Trump has launched a Twitter campaign against the NFL and many of its players.  Trump believes that all NFL players should stand for the National Anthem and that kneeling or not standing is disrespectful to the soldiers and members of the military who died for the United States. The NFL players, team owners, coaches and managers are sticking up for their right to peacefully protest racial violence in America. This all started seemingly randomly on Sunday, September 23 at 11:11 AM, when Trump posted a series of tweets expressing his disapproval of the players’ actions, and saying that the players kneeling or not standing were the reason that NFL game ratings have been going down as well as attendance to NFL football games. Trump said “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect…….our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”

He followed this up the next day by tweeting out a few more inflammatory statements: “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”, “…NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”, and most recently “Ratings for NFL football are way down except before game starts, when people tune in to see whether or not our country will be disrespected!”. He also briefly mentioned the reason why so many players do not stand for the National Anthem, racial violence in America. He said that “the issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race.” Trump also tweeted several more things about the need for football players and other athletes to be patriotic.

The reaction of the NFL as a whole and many of its fans has been the opposite of what Trump has said. Many players who did not kneel for the Anthem before Trump’s statements kneeled in response to what he said at their games on Sunday, such as virtually the entire Oakland Raiders football team. Many teams locked arms and stood while some knelt to show solidarity against Trump’s comments, including the Patriots, the Lions and the Falcons. A few other teams, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks, stayed in the locker room all together.

The one exception on the Steelers was Alejandro Villanueva, who stood alone for the Anthem right outside the team tunnel. Villanueva is a three-tour veteran and has spent a lot of time serving our country, so it makes sense why he would stand alone for the Anthem. However, he has recently said that he did not intend to “make his team look bad” and that there was a plan for two of the captains to stand with him, but they were blocked for logistical reasons. He expressed regret by saying he didn’t want to be some “righteous voice.” But Villanueva has made many fans of the NFL very happy and has inspired many, regardless of whether he intended to do so or not. His jersey sales are skyrocketing and he has decided to devote those profits to military groups, an amazing cause. 

Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots and a personal friend of Trump, as well as a few other NFL owners and countless players and fans, have spoken out condemning the tweets. Kraft said he was “deeply disappointed” and did not want to take away his players’ rights to “express themselves”. Even Tom Brady said he “definitely disagrees” with the “divisive” comments that Trump has made.

Throughout the week, countless NFL players, coaches and owners have protested Trump’s comments on Twitter, at press conferences, through official statements, and during games, kneeling at various parts of the game. The entire Dallas football team knelt previous to the National Anthem, but stood and linked arms for the Anthem. Trump has not made any further comments in the past two days about the NFL, instead switching his attention to Puerto Rico. However, he has stirred up controversy about this issue and it will certainly be here to stay.