NFL Protests: Why Trump and Team Owners Are Missing the Point
A protest originally started to raise awareness about police brutality towards ethnic minorities not as a sign of disrespect towards the flag or national anthem.
(Photo: Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
After his unfortunate demise from the national football league last year, it had appeared as if Colin Kaepernicks protest may not have been much more than an exercise in futility. The league as a whole had seemingly moved on and began to forget the whole situation until late last month when President Donald Trump took to Twitter, his preferred method of communication, to attack any players and owners who had partaken or allowed any sort of protest during the national anthem on match day.
“The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”
12:39 PM - Sep 25, 2017
(Photo: Ed Clemente/MGN)
Throughout the weekend Trump called on the NFL to fire any players who protest during the national anthem and retweeted someone calling for a boycott against the NFL. This added fuel to the fire but more importantly, Trump managed to diverge the public and media attention towards the issue of patriotism rather than police brutality. This misses the point completely. As a matter of fact, when Kaepernick jump started the protest in August last year he was explicit reasons for doing so, "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder." This is about systemic racism, more specifically the brutality towards ethnic minorities at the hands of police forces in America.
According to a study conducted by the Guardian last year, black Americans are more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to be killed by police when accounting for population. In 2016, police killed black Americans at a rate of 6.66 per 1 million people, compared to 2.9 per 1 million for white Americans. Police brutality has previously been a point of humor for Trump along with the Black Lives Matter movement and similar causes, so it is unsurprising that Trump is trying to spin the protests in the least charitable way possible.
Trump’s backlash prompted a swarm of players and team owners alike to join the protest which also began to raise questions towards the legitimacy of these demonstrations being embraced by some of the same players and teams that had previously shunned Colin Kaepernick for making a similar complaint in 2016. Some teams have started linking arms during the national anthem as a sign of solidarity in an attempt appease both sides of the dispute, this has arguably only made things worse because one side still see it as a form of dissent and the other don’t even recognise it as a valid form protest due to its ‘one foot through the door’ nature.
This attempt to protest something whilst also trying not to offend or make anybody uncomfortable seems to defeat the whole point of protesting anything in the first place. These demonstrations are meant to show Americans that something is so wrong that the routine of American life simply cannot go on as is, so it must be interrupted in some way to draw the everyday person’s attention. The aim is not to say that the America is wicked and that the anthem and those who defend it are bad people. It is instead a plea to garner the attention of a nation who claim to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave” but often times do not show it.
By Nicholas Borghesi. See more from Nic on his blog here