President Donald Trump has declared the movement of athletes kneeling during the national anthem anti-militaristic. However, during Veterans Day weekend, several players chose to stand during the anthem to show support for veterans and communicate that their kneeling is not directed against the military, but rather the racial injustice within our country.
Leading up to Sunday’s games, various organizations declared that they would not watch any of the football games, believing that when the players refuse to stand they are disrespecting the soldiers and veterans that defend the United States. However, on Sunday, no National Football League players protested during the national anthem before the early games in order to honor the military. This was the decision of players alone, seeing that the NFL maintained its stance on allowing its players to continue to act on their own accord, while also reiterating that they have the uptmost respect for the anthem and flag, as well as the country and soldiers it represents.
The NFL has been faced with strong opposition due to its players’ actions. This criticism originated from Trump’s claim that the players who kneel are directly disrespecting United States veterans and soldiers. This disapproval came to a climax over Veterans Day weekend with calls for a boycott of the NFL. The Facebook page titled “Boycott the NFL,” which has over 250,000 likes, urged its community not to partake in watching the games on Sunday, as an act of support for veterans. Additionally, various bars and pubs, such as Woody’s Roadside Tavern in New Jersey and Halligan’s Public House in New York, refused to show the league’s games on their televisions over Veterans Day weekend.
However on Thursday night, Seattle Seahawks player Michael Bennett stood for the anthem, despite having kneeled throughout the majority of the season. On Sunday, Tennessee Titans receiver Rishard Matthews, who typically remains in the tunnel for the anthem, took the field hand in hand with soldiers. Many teams and players went beyond standing for the anthem and participating in the NFL-allotted moment of silence. On Sunday morning, the Atlanta Falcons announced over Twitter that they would be wearing the initials of fallen soldiers on their helmets. The Steelers’ starting left tackle and West Point graduate Alejandro Villanueva gave each of his teammates helmet decals that represented West Point army infantry divisions to wear during their game, and he paired each decal with a player who he felt represented the spirit of that division.
Stern freshman Ali Ashai said this decision by the players shows that they are not protesting the military, but instead the injustices occurring in the United States.
“On a deeper level, I think it shows how Trump and his counterparts have successfully distorted the protests and made it about players ‘disrespecting’ the military instead of protesting injustice,” Ashai said.
Although the players have halted their kneeling in respect of Veterans Day, this is most likely a temporary pause. Players could potentially return to their kneeling on Thursday when the Titans play the Steelers.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 13 print edition. Email Tyler Crews at [email protected]