The issue of NFL players kneeling before games while the U.S. National Anthem plays is one that clearly sticks in the craw of the country’s president, Donald Trump. The players who kneel have said they are doing it to protest police brutality, in particular, they say, brutality toward people of color.
Trump has been engaged in a war of a kind with the NFL and its players over the issue, in particular this season. It continued at 4:45 a.m. on Tuesday, when he tweeted the following:
At least 24 players kneeling this weekend at NFL stadiums that are now having a very hard time filling up. The American public is fed up with the disrespect the NFL is paying to our Country, our Flag and our National Anthem. Weak and out of control!
NFL fan reaction
Trump may be right about attendance at NFL games being down but to suggest the league is having “a very hard time filling up” stadiums is a gross exaggeration as some numbers have attendance down by little, if at all. Further, many stadiums are selling out.
There are those who agree that players kneeling before games is keeping fans away, others say it has little effect but may have one in the longer run should it continue. There’s been no definitive study to suggest players kneeling during the anthem has lowered game attendance.
The media most vociferously insisting that NFL attendance is down is the ultra-conservative site Breitbart News, but they’ve offered primarily only photos of empty seats rather than attendance figures. Trump has tweeted about the issue numerous times but he, too, has not backed up his assertion that attendance is down.
Kneeling before anthem
It started when former San Francisco Giant quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand before a game during the 2016 preseason and continued to refuse to do so throughout that season. He told media he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Other players have been following suit and 12 weeks into the 2017 season there has been players from multiple teams kneeling during the anthem every week. Teams have tried to find ways to respond to the kneeling phenomena that won’t offend anyone, some have kept players in the locker during the anthem, players on other teams have held hands together, kneeling or standing as they choose.
Meanwhile, Kaepernick became a free agent in March of 2016 but remains unsigned and has a lawsuit pending against the NFL, claiming collusion among teams not to sign him because of his stance.