National Anthem Sports Protests in the U.S.



Professional sports players have always used their platforms to advocate for  issues they find most important. Starting last year, former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to sit during the national anthem as a way to protest the injustice that African Americans have faced in the past couple of years. Since he started his protest, more people have joined the protest over many different issues.

Colin Kaepernick,  who lead his team to Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, is now a free agent, yet to be signed after his contract expired with the San Francisco 49ers. Many people have said that Kaepernick is a better quarterback than some people on NFL rosters but getting blackballed by NFL owners and General Managers. NFL players like Tom Brady believe that Kaepernick deserves another chance. Tom Brady said on a interview with CBS This Morning:

“I’ve always watched him and admired him, the way that he has played he was a great young quarterback… He accomplished a lot in the pros as a player. And he’s certainly qualified and I hope he gets a shot.”

Even though Colin Kaepernick no longer plays for the NFL , players  have continued to protest during the national anthem, about different issues. From police brutality to displeasure with the current presidential administration.

These protests have, with players kneeling/sitting for the national anthem. Another form of protest involves a person raising their fists in the air. This was originally done by Tommie Smith and John Carlos, United States Olympic Athletes during the 1986 Summer Olympics. They also took off their shoes to advocate for bettering the quality of life of  people living in poverty, and lofted their fists as a black power symbol.

Players in the NFL began using this measure to protest unfair treatment towards African Americans from the public and the police.

A bigger spotlight was placed on the protests by President Trump, when he tweeted that all players who kneel or sit during the national anthem deserve to be fired, and that people should not watch NFL games if  players are not standing for the national anthem. He also reiterated his stance on the issue at rally in Alabama, referring to the protesting players as a “son of a b***h”.

On September 24th, week 3 of the NFL season, more players than ever decided to protest the national anthem, many of them directly protesting the comments President Trump made. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans, and the Seattle Seahawks decided not to take the field for the national anthem as a protest to President Trump’s rhetoric.

These protests do not only happen in the NFL, Bruce Maxwell, a catcher for the Oakland Athletics, became the first MLB player to protest during the national anthem. Players in the NBA have always been vocal about their beliefs.

Most sport organizations have been okay with their players using the anthem as a place to protest. The MLB and the NFL have recently released statements supporting the player’s right to protest. While NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver has always been supportive of player taking a stand for what they believe in. Adam Silver also stated in his address to the NBA Board of Governors that there is an NBA rule stating that all players must stand for the anthem, but would not state what the penalty would be for not standing.

Not every sport organization has been okay with their employees protesting. NASCAR owners have said that they will fire anyone who does not respect the flag. President Trump tweeted how satisfied he is with this decision.

During week 4 of the NFL season, the amount of people kneeling for the national anthem was considerably less. Almost every player stood for the national anthem, most of them showing unity in different ways, from kneeling before the national anthem and then standing, to locked arms, to the Patriots who put one hand on someone’s shoulder.

During week 5 of the NFL season, United States Vice President Mike Pence was in attendance for the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts game. Mike Pence left the game early after multiple players for the 49ers kneeled for the national anthem.

Many people believe that this was a public relations stunt, and Vice President Pence always planned on leaving, while the White House has said that President Trump and Vice President Pence had a prior agreement that if any player “disrespected the flag”, Vice President Pence would leave the game.

Just as the media’s attention around the National Anthem protests was slowly dying down, the situation with Vice President Pence happened bringing attention back to the protests. It is unclear if there will be another uptick in the amount of protests for week 6 of the NFL season.