Trump and the NFL

Sean W. Cooper, Staff Writer

Sean W. Cooper is a sophomore at UNCW majoring in Communication Studies. He is a staff writer for The Seahawk. The opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author. Sean W. Cooper may be found on Twitter @SWWCoop. All suggestions and inquires may be sent via email to [email protected] 

Starting last August during a preseason game, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt for the national anthem instead of standing.  When asked for his reasoning, Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

With the start of the new season, players on various teams in the National Football League have begun following suit.

At the time that I am writing this article, it is 3:30 PM, Tuesday, September 26. In the past two days, President Donald J. Trump has composed 33 tweets. A whopping 15 have been complaints about this incident. It almost made me forget that there is a hurricane currently destroying lives in Puerto Rico, but sports is clearly a more exigent issue to President Trump.

He has encouraged Americans to boycott the National Football League, has attacked the NFL’s ratings and labeled them as “boring games,” and has encouraged the NFL to “fire or suspend” players that participate in Kaepernick’s protest.

Additionally, at a rally September 23, Trump mused, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now,’” according to The Guardian.

It was Michelle Obama who said, “When they go high, we go low,” at last year’s Democratic National Convention. For Trump it seems to be, “When they go low, we go even lower.”

We all know that Trump has very thin skin, but he seems to take people’s actions especially personally when it comes to the desecration of a patriotic symbol. Last November, Trump tweeted that “nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

It really makes you wonder if our president has ever looked at the Constitution. The First Amendment protects free speech in all forms (in this case, symbolic speech). The President of the United States should not be attacking his fellow citizens for utilizing this right. If anything, it’s one of the most distinctly American things they can do; you’d be shot at point blank if you did this in Syria.

On the other hand, the players should not be doing this. Yes, this is a country where police brutality is an issue, but it is also a country of opportunity. Any football player who protests the national anthem in this fashion is clearly ungrateful for the fact that, in any other country, they would not be doing what they love and they certainly would not be making a seven-figure salary doing so.

Some may agree with all of this, others only some of it and still others none of it—and that is fine. It is important to have these conversations in America.

As President Barack Obama said roughly a year ago when this issue first arose, according to Time magazine, “I want Mr. Kaepernick and others who are on a knee to listen to the pain that may cause somebody who had a spouse or a child killed in combat, and why it hurts them to see somebody not stand.”

“But,” the former president continued, “I also want people to think about the pain that he may be expressing about somebody who’s lost a loved one that they think was unfairly shot.”