By Miguel Gonzalez
There has always been a small bridge between sports and politics.
In 1968, Olympic American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos endured nationwide criticism for raising black-gloved fists at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
In the current state of professional sports, athletes would always stir public attention to social and political issues through gestures such as Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem.
During this past weekend, President Donald Trump has swayed many athletes, owners and fans to further take action.
During a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, the president encouraged NFL owners to fire players who disrespected the flag.
“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,’” Trump said during the rally. “He is fired.”
Trump’s statement caused numerous public statement from NFL teams, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities,” Roger Goodell said in a released public statement.
The following day, President Trump went to Twitter and claimed that Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors were no longer invited to the White House. In response, LeBron James stated that the president has ruined the honor of visiting the White House.
“U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going!” James posted on Twitter. “So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!”
NBA players — including Chris Paul — took to Twitter to criticize Trump’s remarks.
“With everything that’s going on in our country,” Paul said, “why are YOU focused on who’s kneeling and visiting the White House??? #StayInYoLane”
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr also responded to Trump’s tweets in a Sports Illustrated article.
“Sure, you’re going to have policies that align with your party, but that’s not the point,” Kerr said. “Respectfully, Mr. Trump, the point is this: You’re the president. You represent all of us. Don’t divide us.”
On Sunday, Sept. 24, multiple NFL teams went out to protest Trump’s comments. Starting with the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens in London, several Ravens kneeled during the American anthem while the Jaguars held arms. Jaguars owner Shahid Khan also supported the Jaguars by his locking arms with players.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans stayed in the locker room during the national anthem.
Regardless of opinions, kneeling for the national anthem is not disrespectful and should not be held to offense. The beauty of the U.S. is that people don’t get shot, killed, punished or tortured for not standing up for the country’s anthem.
Players who protest the anthem are aware of the consequences of their actions. They know they will receive criticism. They know their actions will stir public debates, outcry and further protests. Will their jerseys be burned? Will they face possible unemployment from reluctant owners? Will they lose their valuable sponsorships? Yes, just ask Kaepernick.
On Sunday, Sept. 24, NFL players demonstrated that they are more than just professional football players. They are showing the public that they are well aware of today’s social and political issues.
Kneeling during the national anthem is not unpatriotic. Do you know what’s unpatriotic? Calling football players “sons of bitches” in public and insulting a former prisoner of war.