The national anthem protest by American football players has once again taken center stage as NFL preseason began. US President Donald Trump condemned the continued protests.
Several American football players in Thursday's preseason games ignored warnings from the National Football League (NFL) and protested during the pregame national anthem ceremony.
Miami Dolphins players Kenny Stills (pictured above) and Albert Wilson were seen taking a knee during a rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Philadelphia Eagles players Malcolm Jenkins and De'Vante Bausby opted for raising their fists during the playing of the song before their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
NFL owners had approved a new national anthem policy this year that required players who are present on the field during the national anthem to stand. Noncompliance of individual players would result their team being fined.
A temporary hold on this policy was placed, due to a challenge by the players union, but several team owners stated they would impose their own penalties on players that did not stand.
Another Trump condemnation
US president Donald Trump denounced the players' behavior, suggesting they "should be suspended without pay."
"The NFL players are at it again - taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem," Trump wrote on Twitter, saying the players "wanted to show their 'outrage' at something most of them are unable to define."
"A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway… Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!"
The kneeling protests began in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick, then a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, refused to stand during the national anthem. His aim was to bring attention to the issue of police brutality on African American men in the US.
The move has perhaps cost Kaepernick his football playing career, as he has not been able to sign with a team since he opted out of his contract with the 49ers in March 2017. The anthem controversy caused deep divisions across the NFL and its fans.
Kaepernick tweeted on Thursday in support for Stills and Wilson.
The NFL issued a statement Thursday night saying it will continue to play the anthem before games.
"The anthem will continue to be played before every game, and all player and non-player personnel on the field at that time are expected to stand during the presentation of the flag and performance of the anthem. Personnel who do not wish to do so can choose to remain in the locker room."
jcg/dv (AFP, AP)