During a rally in Montana on Thursday, the current president— once again— evacuated the purpose of NFL players kneeling for the national anthem by criticizing the league’s new policy, which requires players to stand for the nation’s song if they are on the field. Otherwise, there are two options: the team with kneeling players will be assessed a fine from the league, or players can elect to stay in the locker room for the duration of the song, according to NFL.com.
“How about the NFL? I don’t want to cause controversy… [the NFL] passed this stupid thing [that] you don’t have to [stand] anymore if you don’t respect the flag or if you don’t like the country or whatever it is, just go into the locker room. I think in many respects that’s worse. Isn’t that worse than not standing? I think that’s worse. So they say go into the locker room,” the President told his cheering crowd.
First off, Colin Kaepernick first knelt in protest of police brutality against the Black community, specifically in outrage to criminal justice wrongdoings against minorities such as the plethora of unarmed Black men being practically executed by cops in 2016, and even now. Since then, kneeling during the anthem has swept through the NFL to the point that the POTUS called them “sons of b*****s”. More importantly, however, the president knows that kneeling isn’t about players “respect[ing] the flag” or “[disliking] the country” or “whatever it is.” His most recent dismissive platitudes regarding the NFL ignore the fact that just last month, June 8 to be exact, the president himself asked for pardon recommendations from NFL players because he knew that they knelt in protest of the criminal justice system.
“You have a lot of people in the NFL in particular… [who] are not proud enough to stand for our national anthem. I don’t like that. I am going to ask all of those people to recommend [pardon recipients] to me— because that’s what they’re protesting— people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system and I understand that. I’m gonna take a look at those applications and if I find, and if my committee finds, that they were unfairly treated than we will pardon them or at least let them out,” said the President on Fox News.
Of course, a few pardons in a fairy godmother fashion do not fix the long history of the Prison Industrial Complex’ agenda against the Black community and all racial minority groups, yet it remains true that the president knows exactly what this lawful, silent protest is about. The disconnect between what NFL players are protesting— the national anthem, and by virtue the flag— versus why they are protesting— police brutality against people of color— is the wedged issue that continues to derail what could be a productive conversation about criminal justice reform. So instead, one is left to continually encounter presidential phrases such as “isn’t that worse” when a pressurized NFL decides to enact its new stay in the locker room, stand, or be fined policy.
Forego not wanting to “cause controversy”, the president has weighed his importance of “respect[ing] the flag” over criminal justice reform countless times. For example, instructing his vice president, and the nation for that matter, to leave football games the minute a player kneels— instead of perhaps, encouraging fruitful conversation in an effort to find a common ground to move forward together— is divisive and destructive. And not so ironically, the following October his vice president did walk out on a Colts, 49ers game last.
So which is actually worse: A president who uses political stunts that lead to one of the many reasons as to why the NFL started its policy, or the fact that we have a president calling that policy “worse” simply because it doesn’t put a complete end to a lawful, peaceful, and morally correct protest? Either way, the sheer fact that in 2 years time, a one-man Kaepernick protest transformed into a NFL policy demonstrates the power of protests… and the need for them to continue.