Trump Renews Attacks on Kneeling Players as NFL Opts Not to Punish Them

“If the players stood proudly for our Flag and Anthem, maybe ratings would come back?”

Former San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid and quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneel during the national anthem in September 2016. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

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As the 2018 football season kicks off, the NFL has opted not to punish players who kneel during the national anthem. But that’s not stopping President Donald Trump from attacking players who don’t stand during the anthem.

On Sunday, Trump lobbed his latest Twitter tirade, writing, “If the players stood proudly for our Flag and Anthem, and it is all shown on broadcast, maybe ratings would come back?”

The league’s first full day of games begins amid news that the league will not punish players who kneel during the anthem. According to ESPN, negotiations on the issue have stalled, and so the league has decided the best policy is no policy for the time being. 

Back in May, the NFL’s owners announced a policy requiring all players and league personnel on the sideline to stand for the national anthem, but the policy gave them the option to stay in the locker room if they chose not to stand. That announcement caused the NFL Players Association to file a grievance against the league, arguing that the policy was decided without consultation from the players’ union and violated players’ rights to free speech.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 as a way to protest the killing of unarmed black people by police in America. Kaepernick, once one of the NFL’s most electrifying stars, opted out of his contract with the rebuilding 49ers after that season ended and has been a free agent ever since.

Last October, Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL, arguing that team owners have conspired to keep him out of the league because of his silent protest and outspoken activism. Just before this season kicked off, Nike, the NFL’s official sponsor and a longtime marketer of rebellion against authority, announced that Kaepernick is the new face of its 30th-anniversary Just Do It ad campaign with the tag line “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” 

Sales jumped 31 percent. Rebellion, it seems, is good for business.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

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Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

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