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NFL players ignite national debate on race and protest

NFL players ignite national debate on race and protest
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By Anna Bryson

America waited in suspense Monday night to watch what the Dallas Cowboys would do during the national anthem. The team knelt together, arms interlocked, prior to the national anthem alongside the team’s owner Jerry Jones. When the anthem played, they stood together, still linking arms in unity.

A debate has reignited about race and protest, spurred on by Trump’s stream of tweets over the weekend that called NFL players who declined to stand for the national anthem “son of a bitch.” He also said they should be fired.

Over a dozen players from the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars knelt during the national anthem in London before their game on Sunday morning.

Nearly all of the players on three teams this weekend didn’t appear on the field for the national anthem at all. No players from the Tennessee Titans or the Seattle Seahawks were on the field during the national anthem at their game in Nashville. After the anthem, the players, linking arms, walked onto the field. Boos echoed throughout the stadium.

From the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, receivers DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans knelt on one knee with their right hands over their hearts while the national anthem on Sunday night. They knelt behind the rest of their teammates who stood, many locking arms with each other.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ entire team with the exception of one stayed in the locker room together. The one exception, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, stood with his hand over his heart in the tunnel. Villanueva was an Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan.

Reactions to the protest have been mixed, spurring controversy across the country.

Many team owners who initially supported Trump, are standing, or rather kneeling, in solidarity with their team and condemning Trump’s disrespect. Robert K. Kraft, the owner of the Patriots who is a personal friend of Trump and donated to his campaign, made this statement before the New England game.

“I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday … I support (the team’s) right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.”

Trump told reporters that his comments “had nothing to do with race or anything else- this has to do with respect for our country and respect for our flag.” Yet his comments were about NFL players, a majority of whom are black, who’s entire intention of their act was to protest police brutality and racial injustice.

Those on the other side of the debate are also taking a stand for what they believe in. Some restaurants owners are bringing politics to their business.

Like other restaurant owners around the country, Craig Munroe, the owner of Shark Tales on St. Pete Beach, has decided to stop showing NFL games. He released a statement on Monday.

“I will not show another NFL game at Shark Tales until these players stop insulting my country. I 100 percent believe in freedom of speech, but taking a knee during our country’s Anthem is not speaking, it’s jumping on a bandwagon that shows no purpose and provides no results except to divide our country even more.”

The entire point of focus of this protest has shifted from its original purpose. Colin Kaepernick, the player who started the movement last year before Trump’s election, knelt in protest of police brutality against black Americans. Since Trump’s tweets on Saturday, the movement has more turned into a backlash against Trump.

Some team owners supported Trump and even donated to his campaign, and did not speak out against any of the things Trump has said in the past that were much worse than insulting NFL players. The NFL owners were not “shocked” about Trump until he put their money at stake.

Fans and players alike wonder the effect this movement will have and if it will be a part of NFL contracts in the future.


Information from The New York Times, Washington Post and Tampa Bay Times was used in this report.

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