Football announcers and commentators were vocal on Sunday pre-game shows in objecting to President Donald Trump’s condemnation of NFL players for kneeling during the National Anthem and other demonstrations of protest.
“To be dismissive, vulgar and divisive with comments that reflect a lack of understanding, insensitive, and indeed colonizing does not serve the purpose of trying to honestly resolve problems, build bridges and foster civil dialogue,” said James Brown, host of CBS’ “NFL Today. “What would be more effective is … the kind of dialogue that uses the four-letter word that former UCLA coach John Wooden said is the most powerful one to effect change — and that is love.”
The President’s calls for fans to boycott NFL games until the league takes a stand on player protests. At a rally on Friday night, he said NFL owners should fire players who choose to kneel during the National Anthem. The debate over player protests flared up last year when former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the pre-game playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” in a protest against racial inequality spurred by a string of fatal police shootings of unarmed black men.
The focus returned to player protests as the 2017 NFL season kicked off in earnest this month. Trump’s statements and tweets on the subject have drawn harsh criticism in NFL and sports circles.
“Every American has the right to speak out and also to protest,” said Terry Bradshaw, a former player and co-host of Fox’s “NFL Sunday.” “Believe me, these athletes do love this great country of ours. Personally, I think our president should concentrate on serious issues like North Korea and health care rather than ripping into athletes and the NFL.”
Trump’s broadside that NFL owners should immediately fire “the son of a bitch” if a player opts to kneel or otherwise protest during the National Anthem shocked political observers given the NFL’s popularity. Trump’s comments galvanized many more players to take a stand by kneeling, raising fists or locking arms during the National Anthem.
The Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers were among the teams that sat out the National Anthem ceremony entire in their games on Sunday.
“This is not about the President,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll Sunday on “NFL Today.” “This is about a time marking it’s a new day right now. This is a time for change. Our players are ready to activate. They’re ready to be the messengers of the change that is necessary for us. This is so crucial that we take this opportunity and make the most of it. Inequality, treating people unfairly, treating people uniquely because of their background and where they come from is no longer OK. … Our players are the messengers. They’re the ones that can reach the young people. They’re the ones that can spread the word that will no longer allow these things that have lasted for so long to stay the same.”
Boomer Esiason, “NFL Today” analyst and former quarterback, said Trump’s targeting of NFL players has sparked a level of “unity between the owners and the players like I’ve never seen before.” He expressed surprise at the fact that the President would make such sweeping assertions about an entire league.
“What happened this past weekend, unfortunately, is really a blight on our country because it is unfortunate that he used those words and that tone,” Esiason said.