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Anthem Protests Gain Traction in Pro Sports

By Kevin Costa

Section: Sports

September 29, 2017

President Donald Trump has now turned to sports to stage his divisive rhetoric. In a tweet on Saturday morning, Trump rescinded his invitation to honor the Golden State Warriors at the White House. This came after Stephen Curry said he would not join the team in meeting with the president.


Curry had previously expressed his decision to not attend the White House celebration in a Washington Post report, but he then spoke out against Trump: “And by acting and not going, hopefully that will inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country and what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye to.”


That afternoon, the Warriors voiced regret in the President’s decision. Since the team will travel to the capital in February to play the Washington Wizards, the organization plans to use that time “to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion” in place of a visit to the White House.


This is not the first time an athlete has turned down an invitation to the White House. Larry Bird declined to join his Celtics teammates in 1984 to meet President Reagan, according to CNN. From other sports, NHL goalie Tim Thomas did not attend the Boston Bruins’ White House celebration in 2012, and NFL tight end Mark Chmura did not meet President Clinton the year his Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl. Several members of the Patriots did not attend the White House visit with Trump this past April.


However, while other presidents have joked about these incidents or brushed them off for bigger political issues, this time Trump decided to cause a stir.


This was the second incident within a 12-hour span in which Trump attacked athletes for demonstrating their political views. At a campaign rally in Huntsville, Alabama, Trump lashed out against NFL players who have been kneeling during pre-game national anthems as a protest against racial and criminal injustices. According to CNN, the president said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired!’” This statement was mainly directed at former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who started kneeling last season to draw attention to police shootings of African Americans. Trump followed up his statement with a tweet the following morning, pleading NFL owners to “fire or suspend” players who refused to stand during the anthem.


This was immediately followed by a backlash from the league, NPR reports. Commissioner Roger Goodell cited Trump’s comment as a failure to understand “the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.” On game day, each team responded with some act of demonstration against Trump during the national anthem, the New York Times details. Many players knelt or sat as a sign of protest, as seen by nearly the entire Oakland Raiders team before hosting the Washington Redskins. Other teams collectively stood and linked arms, such as the Baltimore Ravens. Even some of the owners, like Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, joined their teams on the field in an act of solidarity. A few teams, the Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers waited out the anthem in their locker rooms. Trump may threaten freedom of speech and spew an “us and them” ideology, but as Patriots owner Robert Kraft pointed out, “there is no greater unifier in this country than sports.”

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