US President Donald Trump said on Friday that those who protest when the US anthem is being sung before games should be sacked or suspended. Last year, quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt for the anthem in protest against racial injustice and police brutality. At Wembley more than 20 players and staff from Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars knelt or linked arms during the anthem.
Similar protests took place at every NFL game in the United States. But owners of Nascar teams have threatened to fire employees who protest, while ice hockey’s Pittsburgh Penguins have accepted President Trump’s invitation to the White House to mark their championship win.
Trump ‘threw down a challenge’
Reacting to the development, a London-born former New York Giants player Umenyiora, who now works as a pundit for the BBC, said: “I was expecting something – we all were – because the president’s remarks were shocking. “As president of the United States, you just can’t say these things.
He threw down a challenge to the NFL players. “He called them sons of bitches and I don’t remember him saying that about the white supremacists. “He has some friends who are owners of NFL teams and maybe he thought that they would back him up, but the opposite happened.”
Just recently, Trump told a Republican rally in Alabama that the protests showed “disrespect of our heritage”. He said that: “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’.” “You know, some owner is going to do that. And that owner, they’ll be the most popular person in this country.” On Sunday, he tweeted: “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our flag and country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”
Trump’s remarks sparked an online debate, with people supporting the president using the hashtag #BoycottNFL and those backing the protesting players using the hashtag #TakeAKnee. Although after San Francisco 49ers player Kaepernick refused to stand to protest against the treatment of black Americans last year, #BoycottNFL was also used to show support for him. A Basketball star LeBron James, who has won four Most Valuable Player awards in the NBA, described Trump as a “bum” over comments he made about fellow player Steph Curry. Trump said the Golden State Warriors were no longer invited to the White House after their star player Curry, 29, said he did not want to attend “to show that we won’t stand for the things [the president] has said”.