Members of the Detroit Lions take a knee during the playing of the national anthem prior to the start of the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field on September 24, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Thank you, Colin Kaepernick. Because for as much as many Americans had a problem with you not standing for the national anthem, you ignited a debate and started a movement that needed to happen.
Thank you, Donald Trump. Because for as much as your divisiveness has poisoned the most powerful and once-respected office in the free world, you’ve managed to bring more people together – against you and your rhetoric, notwithstanding those on the outskirts who continue to devour hate speech.
The NFL – owners and players – pulled together Sunday like they haven’t in years. Decades, maybe. Falcons owner Arthur Blank stood with players for the national anthem before the team’s game in Detroit. All locked arms, including defensive tackles Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe, who kneeled during the anthem. Eight Detroit players also kneeled.
In other cities, a blur of NFL owners have responded to fire from Trump and defended their league and praised their players. Several players locked arms or exhibited other forms of protest. The Pittsburgh Steelers planned to remain in the locker room before their game against Chicago as a form of silent protest.
Sports and politics continue to intersect. This isn’t going away.
Thank you, Donald Trump. This would not have happened if you hadn’t delivered another divisive and turbo-lipped speech in Alabama in which you attacked the NFL for not doing more to stop players from kneeling during the anthem as a form of legal and silent protest – see: First Amendment – and then followed that the last two days with a series of Tweets, including Sunday’s: “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!”
And: “…NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”
NFL attendance and/or ratings are down for many reasons. A player’s quiet protest during the anthem is not one of them.
Blank issued a statement supporting his team and addressing Trump’s divisiveness Saturday night. He expanded on his thoughts before Sunday’s game. The entire transcript of his comments in a five-and-a-half-minute interview is below, but here are a few excerpts:
“The people who fought for this country going back several hundred years primarily weren’t fighting for geography. They were fighting for a way of life, principles and values and part of that is reflected in freedom of speech and to have the ability to speak … on issues and (have) thoughtful and positive discussions that are based on inclusiveness, not divisiveness.”
“It’s unfortunate that the president chose to…