By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Friday, President Donald Trump came to Alabama to help the campaign of appointed Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., who faces Roy Moore on Tuesday in a Republican runoff election. The president’s comments about athletes that kneel during the national anthem at NFL games, however, sparked a major controversy that spilled over to football fields across the country and beyond on Sunday.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—– off the field, right now. Out. He’s fired! He’s fired!” Trump told the crowd at Huntsville’s Von Braun Center.
While the Alabama crowd loved the president’s comments, they created a firestorm across the sports and news world.
“The NFL and our player at our best when we help create a sense of unity within our country and our culture,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded to the president’s remarks. “There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the natural disasters that we’ve experienced over the last few months. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game, our players and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and our players represent in our communities,”
“It’s unfortunate that the President decided to use his immense platform to make divisive and offensive statements about our players and the NFL,” Green Bay Packers President Mark Murphy said in a statement. “We strongly believe that players are leaders in our communities and positive influences. They have achieved their positions through tremendous work and dedication and should be celebrated for their success and positive impact. We believe it is important to support any of our players who choose to peacefully express themselves with the hope of change for good. As Americans, we are fortunate to be able to speak openly and freely.”
Dozens of NFL players kneeled during the anthem. The entire Pittsburgh Steelers football team, with the exception of Alejandro Villanueva, a U.S. army Captain, Army Ranger and Bronze Star recipient, stayed in the locker room while the anthem was played.
These protests began at the start of the 2016 season when San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick started doing it to highlight what he said were injustices being perpetrated on the black community, which included police shootings.
Kaepernick has been drummed out of the league and has received no known offers from any of the 32 teams to be their starting quarterback or even to be one of their backups. Some NFL analysts suggest this is because of the anthem protests last year. Other NFL analysts suggest that Kaepernick has a declining skill set and the league defensive coordinators have figured out his game and that at this point in his career his abilities are not worth the sideshow that would come with adding him to their roster. Ironically, some analysts suggest that the president’s comments may increase his chance of being picked up by a team in the near term.
Many liberals are celebrating the protests by players today. Some conservatives, however, are suggesting that they may boycott the NFL in the future if owners continue to disrespect the flag and the country.
“These guys have the right to disrespect the American people but I would remind them that it’s the American people (taxpayers) who subsidize their profession,” state Rep. Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City, said on social media. “Many don’t realize this but the owners only pay a portion of the cost of their stadiums while most of the money comes from taxpayers. We (American taxpayers) certainly have the right to boycott the games, the owners, the sponsors etc and I encourage everyone to exercise this right to send a huge message to these privileged few till they figure it out. Living life upside down,”
Butler is running for state Senate in 2018.
“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast,” Trump said on Twitter. “Fire or suspend!”
While the NFL remains the most popular sports league or cultural event in this country, viewership and attendance were both down last year and that trend has continued to this season.