Professional Athletes Push Back Against Trump’s Anti-Protest Comments

By Sameer Rao Sep 25, 2017

President Donald Trump kicked off the weekend with a Friday (September 22) rally in Huntsville, Alabama. There, he called on National Football League (NFL) owners to fire “son of a bitch” players who protest during the national anthem. His invocation of athletes like Colin Kaepernick—who sit, kneel, raise a fist or otherwise demonstrate during the national anthem in protest of police violence against Black people—made it clear that Trump thinks Black players who use their platforms for protest should not have jobs.

Trump then used Saturday (September 23) to tweet about the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Stephen Curry. During a Friday media day, the Golden State Warrior said that, as a member of the championship-winning team, he didn’t plan to accept a prospective White House invitation. Trump responded the next day with a tweet rescinding Curry’s invitation—a move that provoked criticism from Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Curry’s on-court opponent LeBron James and many other NBA personalities who support players’ rights to protest racism and the Trump administration.

James issued a critical tweet before explaining his support of Curry in a video via his Uninterrupted content platform:

The Warriors share their hometown of Oakland with a Major League Baseball (MLB) team, the Athletics. On Saturday, that team’s catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to take a knee during the national anthem: 

Maxwell, who is Black, referenced Trump’s lack of empathy for people of color while talking to Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan about why he chose to protest: 

As CNN reports, on Sunday (September 24), players in nearly every NFL game protested Trump’s criticism, with some taking knees, linking arms and even completely skipping the field during the national anthem. The following tweets include photos of some of those demonstrations: 

The last photo shows Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, the only NFL team majority-owner of color, linking arms with his players prior to a game in London. The New York Daily News notes that Khan, like several senior NFL executives, contributed money to Trump’s campaign. He and another Trump supporter, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, shared their own statements supporting players’ rights to protest and dismissing Trump’s call for firing players: 

Khan and Kraft’s statements accompanied others issued by NFL team owners who say they support players’ right to protest: 

Sunday’s NFL actions occurred in tandem with those from the

Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), whose players were among the first professional athletes to protest police violence. USA Today reports that before game one of the WNBA finals last night, members of the Minnesota Lynx linked arms during the national anthem. Their final opponents, the Los Angeles Sparks, stayed in the locker room:

The protest dominated media coverage throughout the weekend, but they didn’t impress everyone. Many critics called out the actions—particularly the linking of arms—as non-committal stances against Trump’s comments instead of Kaepernick’s original target: police violence. These tweets capture that criticism: