Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions call for NFL rule requiring players to stand for anthem
Sessions' remarks came a day after he spoke in support of free speech
On Sunday, the NFL -- from the owners to the players -- responded to Donald Trump's inflammatory remarks about players who protest racial injustice by kneeing during the national anthem. They did so by carrying out widespread demonstrations during the anthem. As expected, Trump responded right back using his favorite platform.
Trump tweeted on Tuesday that the NFL should require players to stand for the national anthem.
Then, on Wednesday morning, attorney general Jeff Sessions said the same thing on "Fox & Friends."
"I think it should be a formal rule of the league," he said. "They should be able to say to the players, 'If you're on our field, in our game, paid by us, you should respect the flag and the national anthem,'"
Of note: On Tuesday -- the day before Sessions made those remarks above -- Sessions advocated for free speech, saying that government should not restrict it, which seems just a tad contradictory considering Sessions is the attorney general of the U.S. and he just advocated for an NFL rule limiting free speech.
"In this great land, the government does not get to tell you what to think or what to say," Sessions said, according to NPR.
The battle between the NFL and Trump began on Friday when Trump criticized NFL players who protest racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. He then called for NFL owners to fire players who don't stand for the anthem.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b---- off the field right now," Trump said. "Out. He's fired. He's fired."
"You know, some owner is going to do that, he's going to say, 'That guy that disrespects our flag, he's fired,'" Trump continued. "And that owner, they don't know it -- they're friends of mine, many of them -- they don't know it, they'll be the most popular person for a week, they'll be the most popular person in this country, because that's a total disrespect of our heritage, that's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for."
In response, teams condemned his remarks, players criticized him on Twitter, members of the Dolphins wore shirts in support of Colin Kaepernick, some teams didn't even come out for the national anthem -- let's just say the demonstrations were widespread on Sunday, which generated a response from Trump.
Ratings for NFL football are way down except before game starts, when people tune in to see whether or not our country will be disrespected!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 26, 2017
The booing at the NFL football game last night, when the entire Dallas team dropped to its knees, was loudest I have ever heard. Great anger— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 26, 2017
But while Dallas dropped to its knees as a team, they all stood up for our National Anthem. Big progress being made-we all love our country!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 26, 2017
Ratings, however, are up:
With the inclusion of MNF, overnight ratings for Week 3 Sun-Mon NFL games finish up +3% in aggregate.— Michael Mulvihill (@mulvihill79) September 26, 2017
First 4 MNF games on ESPN in 2017 have averaged a 7.8 overnight rating.— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) September 26, 2017
First 4 MNF games on ESPN in 2016 averaged a 6.5 overnight rating.
Strangely enough, so many pundits and critics didn't believe Kaepernick should've been signed this offseason because he would've been a "distraction." Kaepernick's not even in the NFL right now and the demonstrations during the national anthem have never been more prominent.
It's also worth noting that the protest itself has changed. What began a year ago as Colin Kaepernick's protest against racial inequality has been turned into Trump vs. the NFL. When Kaepernick kneeled during the anthem a year ago, he made it clear that he wasn't protesting the national anthem or the flag itself. He said he was protesting racial injustice in the country that the flag represents, which is why he pledged to donate $1 million to charities that help communities in need.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL.com at the time. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Kaepernick's protest quickly grew, as several players joined in over the course of the season. Even with Kaepernick unable to find a new team after his departure from the 49ers in the offseason, his protest lived on this season with players like Michael Bennett taking a seat during the anthem to protest racial injustice. Trump's comments, however, and the NFL's response have turned Kaepernick's protest against racial injustice into a show of unity against Trump.
Regardless of what the demonstrations are protesting again from here on out, don't expect it to stop anytime soon. Trump reportedly wants his feud with football to continue.
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