President Trump singled out NFL athletes on Friday, telling owners they should “fire” any player who kneels during the national anthem, while encouraging fans to walk out of stadiums.
The NFL players responded with a clear message on Sunday, protesting through a variety of methods before their games. Only 19 Broncos players stood for the anthem before their game against the Buffalo Bills, according to Denver7’s count. Multiple sources told Denver7 those kneeling were responding directly to Trump’s remarks before an audience in Alabama on Friday.
Among those protesting ahead of the game Sunday were star outside linebacker and Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller, who not only knelt but locked arms with inside linebacker Brandon Marshall.
“It was his choice of words. I felt like he was pointing out a few guys. I felt like it was an attack on the National Football League, talking about ratings and all this other stuff,” Miller said following the Broncos’ 26-16 loss. “This my life. I love everything about the NFL. I try not to get into any politics and social issues and just play ball. But I felt like it was an attack.”
Added Marshall, who took a knee for eight games last season to promote awareness of social injustices, “It’s hard because I am sure a lot of us took it personally. Some of the guys came and talked to me and said they were ready to do it. I think we all took it personally.”
9NEWS highlighted a comment from a fan they considered representative:
Today, the NFL died to me. I have been a loyal, faithful Denver Broncos fan for nearly 50 years! You turning your back on my flag? The flag that affords you the privilege to play the game you love on a field & earn millions of dollars doing it? I’m turning my back on you & just so you know, I can live without the NFL but the NFL cannot live without me & the millions of white fans that fill those stadiums! [Pols emphasis]
For our part, we hope that comment is not representative.
Although some NFL players including the Broncos’ Brandon Marshall have been engaging in this small but highly visible protest action for some time, following the lead of now-unemployed quarterback Colin Kaepernick, it was President Donald Trump’s suggestion that players should be fired for taking a knee during the national anthem that prompted the vastly larger protests seen yesterday. In addition to large numbers of players kneeling and/or locking arms during the national anthem, other teams waited until after the anthem had finished playing to take the field.
For Coloradans, for whom support for the Denver Broncos is as close to a universal cultural obligation as anything can be, this sudden escalation of tensions between NFL players and President Trump is either welcome or deeply off-putting. The players regard this as a chance not just to protest, but to show their huge fan bases that what’s happening is too serious for anyone with any kind of notoriety to remain quiet.
The knee-jerk backlash from affronted partisans is inevitable. But will that be followed by what the players are hoping to inspire–a crisis of conscience among the American public?
Because that’s what really matters, not how it goes over on Fox & Friends.