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Trump vs the NFL: How did it come to this?

Colin Kaepernick has started a massive movement in the NFL. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)
Roar Guru
24th September, 2017
56

After Donald Trump criticised NFL athletes for kneeling during the United States’ national anthem, the players responded with their most pointed demonstrations to date during Week 3 of the 2017-18 season.

Here’s a rundown on how all this controversy reached a boiling point.

When and why did the first protests start?

Beginning in the 2016 preseason, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began sitting or kneeling during the anthem to make a statement against police brutality.

His gesture turned heads, inspiring a handful of other NFL players to follow his example.

The issue quickly drew media attention, culminating in Kaepernick featuring on the cover of Time magazine in October 2016. Other athletes began taking up Kaepernick’s cause and protest in their own ways.

What does this have to do with Donald Trump?

During a rally in Alabama last Friday, the president stated that NFL owners should release any players that knelt during the anthem. He doubled down on Twitter over the next couple days, with a series of posts emphasising that he viewed kneeling as a sign of disrespect.

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Trump also directed his ire at athletes from other sports, such as uninviting Stephen Curry from the White House after the NBA star told the media that he did not want to visit and celebrate the Golden State Warriors’ NBA championship there.

This drew a scathing response from Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, who referred to Trump as a “bum” in a massively retweeted post.

How did NFL players respond?

Every game during Week 3 involved protests.

After scoring a touchdown, New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr raised his fist in homage to the black power salute from the 1968 Olympics.

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During the match-up between the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans, both teams refused to even exit the locker rooms for the anthem, leaving the sidelines eerily empty in one of the most powerful statements so far.

Other players opted for different forms of protest, such as standing and locking arms in a display of unity.

Notably, several team owners either released statements criticising Trump or joined their players on the sideline to link arms, including the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Shahid Khan, and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, both of whom donated to the president’s inaugural committee.

What was Trump’s response?

The president took to Twitter yet again during the day to call for the NFL to change its policy and crack down on players kneeling. He also made a point to state that he approved of players standing up and linking arms.

What will happen next?

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We should expect debate over this topic to explode over the next few days, with both politicians and athletes looking to make their voices heard.

An increasing number of athletes will likely protest, and discussion of the issue will continue to be a focal point throughout the NFL season, as well as being a hot topic during the NBA season, as many high-profile players such as James and Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul are noted for their social activism.