A direct response to the kneeling, fist raising, and arm linking performed by players like Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid, and countless others in an effort to call attention to American institutional racism and police brutality, the league has now banned those peaceful protests. If a player does engage in protest on the field, the league will impose a fine on that player’s team, which in turn could fine or suspend the individual athlete.
Started in 2016 by Colin Kaepernick, then-quarterback of the San Francisco 49’ers, and eventually adopted by numerous athletes of color and allies across the league, the NFL’s mid-song protests have brought significant attention to the social justice goals and political standing of professional football players, who are often treated as replaceable cogs in the deadly game.
That tension came to a head last season when Donald Trump went on a tirade against NFL players kneeling at a supporter rally. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired,'” Trump said.
Now, without talking to players at all, league owners have done just that.
On Thursday morning, Trump offered his support for the NFL’s new rule during an interview on Fox News, and went as far as to suggest excommunicating any player that continues to protest.
Racism and police brutality are not black or white issues, rich or poor issues, or something to be swept under the rug or hidden in a locker room. Without engagement and action from every corner of the country and every institution we as a society hold dear, we will never see true equality or justice. By silencing athletes and ascribing a false equivalency between standing for the National Anthem and being patriotic, NFL owners and Commissioner Goodell have clearly shown the world that is them, not the players, who lack respect.