When President Trump suggested on Friday that National Football League (NFL) players “should be fired” if they refuse to stand for the National Anthem before major games, no one anticipated the response that would follow, with players and coaches coming together in opposition to the President.  Close to 200 players took a knee in protest to the Star-Spangled Banner and against the President.

Rather than forego the issue, the President has doubled and tripled down, calling on the NFL to come up with a policy and guidelines.  He called on the organization to set up rules that will mandate players to stand for the National Anthem and honour the flag.

Houston Texans stand in unity with arms locked in honour of the The Flag and the National Anthem on Sunday, 24 September 2017. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

“The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations.  The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can’t kneel during our National Anthem!” he twitted on Tuesday morning around 9:00 am ET.

President Trump who is urging the league to show leadership know he is winning on this sensitive issue and will always have the public behind him and against anyone seen as being disrespectful to the National Anthem and country that has given them the opportunities to become multi-millionaires.

Trump’s tweet calling for NFL to show leadership by setting rules regarding respect for the National Anthem. Credit: Twitter

While over 80% of Americans are fully behind the President on this issue, there is, however, a divide along party and racial lines on whether or not to fire players that protest the National Anthem.

According to a Cato Institute poll released on Monday, 65% of Republicans agree with President Trump with 62% of Conservatives saying that players who ‘take a knee’ in protest should be fired.

President Trump brought on a new spotlight to the NFL ‘take-a-knee’ protest at a rally in Alabama on Friday, 22 September 2017. Credit: AP

The partisan divide is evident: only 19 percent of Democrats would agree the players should lose their jobs — along with 43 percent of whites, 38 percent of Latinos, 38 percent of all Americans, 38 percent of Libertarians, 35 percent of independents, 15 percent of liberals and 12 percent of African Americans.

On Monday, another new poll conducted by Fox News shows that over 94% of Americans are opposed to the ‘take a knee’ protest and want the NFL to start taking action in some form or the other and instill some order.

Detroit Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford stands arms locked with the team before the game on Sunday, 24 September 2017. Credit: Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports

“Not wanting to fire NFL players because of their political speech doesn’t mean that most Americans agree with the content of this speech [taking a knee in protest]. Surveys have long shown that most oppose burning, desecrating, or disrespecting the American flag. Thus, Americans appear to make a distinction between allowing a person to express (even controversial) political opinions and endorsing the content of their speech.

Atlanta Falcons ownerArthur Blank stand wihtarms locked in unity in honour of the National Anthem and flag with his players on Sunday, 24 September 2017. Credit: Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports

“The public can be tolerant of players’ refusing to stand for the national anthem, even while many disagree with what the players are doing. In sum, Americans don’t want to strip people of their livelihoods and ruin their careers over refusing to stand for the national anthem. Even if they don’t agree with the content of the speech, that doesn’t mean they support punishing people who do,” wrote poll analyst Emily Ekins.

A recent Reuters poll had similar findings, revealing that while 72 percent of Americans said ignoring the anthem was unpatriotic, 64 percent also said that those who chose to do so “had the right to protest under the U.S. Constitution.”  What they disagree with is the venue and the mode of doing so – using the National Anthem as a symbol of their protest.

A POLITICIZED NFL

Teams and owners are divided on patriotism with some Jacksonville Jaguars standing with locked arms in unity and a few kneeling in protest in Wembley Stadium, London, 24 September 2017. Credit: Action Images via Reuters

NFL players who have taken issue with the National Anthem have drawn a variety of responses from Americans. Most fans are very angry, some are puzzled, some fiercely sympathetic and some neutral. And some fans are just plain melancholy.

“I was personally saddened. I did not watch the National Football League on Sunday, and it was the first time in 45 years that I made an active decision not to watch, including my team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was not a decision made in anger. It was genuine sadness. I realized that I can no longer look at this game and watch this game and study this game and pretend, fantasize — everything a fan does. This whole thing has removed for me the ingredients that are in the recipe that make up a fan,” Rush Limbaugh told his audience Monday.

Indianapolis Colts players take a knee in protest to the National Anthem before the Cleveland Browns game on Sunday, 24 September 2017. Credit: AP

“The mystique is gone. That actually started vanishing a while ago. The larger-than-life aspect of it is gone. The belief, the wish, the desire that the people in the game were the best and brightest and special, and that’s why they were there, that’s gone. And it’s been politicized. It has been politicized and corrupted, and it didn’t start this weekend. It started years ago.

The Baltimore Ravens take a knee in Wembley Stadium, London on Sunday, 24 September 2017. Credit: AP

After President Trump’s speech and tweets, some NFL teams and players with the support of their owners decided to protest the National Anthem and flag by taking a knee rather than stand in honour.  Others like the Seattle Hawks, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans chose to forego the opening ceremony and stayed in their lockers while the Star Spangled Banner was being played.

President Trump has always insisted the issue is not about race but patriotism and respect for the country. Credit: Twitter

While critics of this President led by most in the mainstream who hate him with a passion have tried to turn this into a racial issue, he rejected that portrayal saying, “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race.  It is about respect for our country, Flag and National Anthem. The NFL must respect this!” tweeted President Trump.

FOR THE LEXICON

San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick (C) who stated the take a knee protest is joined by fellow teammates Eli Harold (L) and Eric Reid during the National Anthem protest. Credit: Reuters

The Twitter hashtag #StandForOurAnthem was inevitable.  It now joins other new hashtags like #TakeaKnee, #TaketheKnee and #ImwithKap as social media reference for the NFL patriotism question. “Kap” refers to Colin Kaepernick, the former 49er and Super Bowl quarterback who originated the idea of kneeling during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

President Trump endorsed the #StandForOurAnthem hashtag on Monday and it quickly started trending.  The hashtag first appeared on Twitter in late August of this year.

 

 

A Washington Times Report.  Further Editing by Manyika Review.

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