It's rare to find any agreement between players and fans of rival teams, but thanks to the buffoonery of Donald Trump, it appears players from around the NFL will end up finding common ground heading into the slate of games scheduled for Sunday. It seems that Trump's negative comments about national anthem protests will set into motion a broader-scale movement among players.
The Intercept's Shaun King, whose background is rooted in reporting and commentary on racial issues in America, said on Saturday morning that he spoke to a group of around 15 NFL players, who said they'd be joining the pre-game protest meant to speak out against discrimination and police brutality in America. Within 10 minutes, that number had risen by another five, and by late Saturday afternoon, the number had risen to at least 50, according to King.
15 new @NFL players have told me they will be sitting, taking a knee, or raising a fist tomorrow. A start. You can do this fellas.— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) September 23, 2017
Make that 20 new players. https://t.co/aITukw47Qo— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) September 23, 2017
50 now. That I know.https://t.co/f6PCUL3rf7— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) September 23, 2017
If there was any doubt that widespread protest would rule the day on Sunday, NFL players lined up swiftly and confidently to condemn Trump's "sons of bitches" comments on Saturday. Richard Sherman, never someone afraid to speak his mind, called Trump's actions, "unacceptable," and implored his fellow Americans to condemn his hateful speech.
The behavior of the President is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. If you do not Condemn this divisive Rhetoric you are Condoning it!!— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) September 23, 2017
Sherman was joined by dozens of NFL and NBA players, including the likes of LeBron James, Steph Curry, LeSean McCoy, Torrey Smith, Doug Baldwin, and countless others. But the more surprising condemnation came from higher-ups around the NFL, who went to bat for their players in almost unprecedented fashion.
NFL owners tend to avoid any sort of political commentary altogether, because their primary interest is in making money, not in whether they look "woke" to their fans. But this situation is fairly unique, because even siding passively with Trump, or not speaking out against his comments strongly enough, could lead to a damaging reputation among the players who drive their franchises forward. Several executives, including Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, let it be known they stood by their guys unequivocally.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross weighs in on President Trump’s comments: pic.twitter.com/WnhQ7drTwe— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 23, 2017
"I know our players who kneeled for the anthem and these are smart young men of character," said Ross. "They wanted to start a conversation and are making a difference in our community, including working with law enforcement to bring people together. We can all benefit from learning, listening, and respecting each other."
This all follows a controversial series of comments made by Trump on Friday evening, when he unloaded on NFL players participating in said protests. Speaking at a campaign rally in Huntsville, Alabama, Trump opined that players should be fired if they did anything but stand at attention during the playing of America's national anthem.
"Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners," said Trump, "when someone disrespects our flags to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now! Out. He’s fired! He’s fired!'"