The NFL took over London again on Sunday with the Miami Dolphins playing the New Orleans Saints at Wembley. The game finished 20-0 with a lockout for the Saints, who managed to keep the Dolphins offense from scoring a single point. Michael Thomas stole the show with an unstoppable performance, making 8 out of 11 catches and scoring a touchdown. However, once again, it was not the game that took the headlines. The kneeling protest during the American national anthem made another appearance just as it had done the previous weekend in the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens match.
The Miami Dolphins lead the way in what could be described as a mass protest during the national anthem. Players, coaching staff and even owners could be seen either taking a knee, sitting down, linking arms, raising a fist or even staying in the locker room during the anthem. The reason for the protest is the police brutality directed towards African Americans, but has been spurred on by President Trump’s comments about the players who did not stand during the anthem.
Colin Kaepernick was the first NFL player protest during the national anthem by sitting in protest during a 2016 pre-season game, during former President Barack Obama’s time in office. This later evolved into kneeling after talking to veterans, deciding this was a more respectful way to protest. By last pre-season game, he was joined by his team mate Eric Reid and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane. In the following weeks more players protested in a similar way with comparisons being drawn to the Black Power Salute seen at the 1968 Olympics. His actions drew huge controversy and is seen as a reason why he is still a free agent despite taking his team to Superbowl XLVII in 2013.
Donald Trump has previously issued tweets claiming that kneeling during the national anthem was disrespectful of the flag, country and veterans who had served in the forces. However, it was his recent comments at a rally down in Alabama for Republican candidate Luther Strange that have been the most controversial, with Trump saying “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. He’s fired!’”
The president may have thought that he would be supported by many of the owners of NFL teams, since many are his friends or contributed funds towards his presidential campaign last year. However, there has almost been a universal show of solidarity in the NFL regarding players right to protest. Owners of the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars, Jerry Jones and Shahid Khan linked arms with their players before their respective games in a display of unity. 30 out of the 32 teams in the NFL have released statements in support of their players right to protest, along with the commissioner of NFL, Roger Goodell, also supporting the players.
The reactions of fans have been mixed though, with some supporters booing the actions of players during the national anthem. On Twitter, people have used #BoycottNFL and #TakeAKnee to voice their opinions of the protests.
Regardless of opinion it certainly has brought attention to the issue on a national level. It will also be interesting to see if these protests continue in force for the rest of the season and especially if it happens during the Superbowl in February.
By Ryan Wan