Athletes have home-field advantage protesting Trump’s comments

Athletes have home-field advantage protesting Trump’s comments

By Tyra Bosnic

As the national anthem played in football stadiums across the country Sept. 24, NFL players displayed solidarity and brotherhood on the sidelines unlike any team huddle. 

At Soldier Field, Chicago Bears teammates locked arms to show unity in the face of divisiveness as the majority of their opponents, the Pittsburgh Steelers, remained off the field during the anthem. Players on other teams—such as the Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns—took the same position as the Bears and locked arms with their teammates during the anthem. Those who didn’t stand decided to take a knee, as the entire Dallas Cowboys team and owner did Sept. 25.

On Sept. 22, two days before players protested, President Donald Trump criticized NFL players and coaches during a rally in Alabama, stating that any player who decided to kneel during the national anthem should be fired. The world outside of the end zones was dramatically different on Sept. 24 after the vitriolic comments from the president, including calling these peaceful protesters “sons of bitches.”

Trump’s comments referred to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who made headlines last season for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality. Kaepernick is no longer signed to any NFL team, and many people have speculated this is because of his decision.

The president’s assault on professional sports players didn’t end after calling for the removal of any football player who decided to exercise his right to peaceful protest. After Stephen Curry, one of the Golden State Warriors’ star basketball players, stated he would vote against a team visit to the White House because of his disapproval of the president, Trump responded via tweet uninviting the team because of Curry’s stance.Because of the president’s attempts to further divide the nation, sports teams found their real home-field advantage. Seemingly all at once, athletes realized the giant platform available to them. The president’s childish comments spurred players, coaches and team owners in various major leagues to action.

In a show of support to NFL athletes Trump targeted, Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to take a knee during the national anthem.

NFL team chairmen and coaches held impromptu meetings with their players and asserted they had the right to protest at Sunday games as long as the gesture was a team effort. 

Now, as the Trump administration continues to push dangerous and hateful rhetoric, major league athletes must come together to continue what Kaepernick started. Both during and after the season, players must remind audiences that political issues don’t pause after kickoff.

An audience of more than 100 million people tuned into NFL games last season. For pro athletes, whether they take a wordless stance by kneeling on the field or become outspoken advocates for the causes they support, millions are watching.