NFL, NBA and Trump, oh my!

Ravens players kneeling at their London game


Alexis Gardner
President Trump has outdone himself this time. Honestly, by the time this article is published, he will probably have done something else trifling. But what I’m going to be focusing on in this article are his comments towards the NFL, NBA and the players

At one of his rallies on Friday, Sept. 22 in Huntsville AL, President Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag to say ‘Get that son of a b*tch off the field right now. Out, he’s fired! He’s fired!’” His statement was followed by mass amounts of cheers from the audience in support of what he said. On Twitter, some were even calling this a white supremacist rally, but I’m not going to comment on that.

These comments seemed to have been the last straw for the NFL. I mean, who cares that Colin Kaepernick is without a job and used his platform to protest police brutality and racial injustice by peacefully protesting and silently taking a knee during the national anthem? It was Trump referring to NFL players as ‘son’s of b*tch’ for people to be upset.

Players responded to Trump’s comments on Saturday by protesting on Sunday in their ways. Some linked arms during the national anthem, symbolizing unity; some took a knee #Takeaknee. One team – the Pittsburgh Steelers, chose to stay in the tunnel during the anthem with the exception of Alejandro Villanueva, a U.S. Army veteran, Buffalo Bills player LeSean McCoy could be seen doing some stretches and then retired Baltimore Ravens player – my home team – Ray Lewis kneeled, not on one, but two knees during the national anthem. He did both, but what I want to address is him kneeling on both knees.

During an interview on the Scott Garceau show, when asked about his decision to take a knee during the national anthem, Lewis corrected him by saying, “Let me make sure I correct you Scott real quick. I never took a knee; I took two knees.” He also said, “First of all, you don’t protest on two knees.” Lewis said he felt like a “big brother” to the Ravens players, and he had to take an approach that he felt like would help us as a country. Lewis also said that since he’s not in the league in anymore, that Trump’s comments don’t bother him but that they’re also so out of order. He added that he was “baffled” that Trump would even make those kinds of comments. That was kind of a shocker to me because if there’s anything citizens have learned from Trump is that he has no filter, doesn’t always speak the way a president should and will say anything and everything especially when he is angry. Lewis said, “I would never protest against my flag. It’s just me. I do too much for my country, I do too much for my city, I’ve invested my life into making people around me better, and the people less fortunate than me,” and that him taking two knees was praying, which was the only thing he could do.

Whether Lewis wants to say that he took one knee or two knees, that doesn’t change the fact that there is a now a petition on for his statue to be removed from the front of the Ravens stadium. I have seen this statue many of times. I even have a picture with him; tons of people have pictures with it. But now more than 52,000 people want it to be taken down – and that number is growing daily. The petition was started by Eric Moniodis, and the caption reads, “I want the Ray Lewis statue at Ravens Stadium removed because of his refusal to stand during the National Anthem. That song honors our country and our veterans who fought for it. To kneel during it is disrespectful, regardless of what you are protesting. I will not stand for that kind of disrespect towards our country, especially from a legend such as Ray Lewis. You stand for the National Anthem as a salute to those who can’t stand because they fought for this land.”

Let’s take a moment to review the facts. Why did Kapernick take a knee in the first place – while Obama was still president, might I add? He did not take a knee to disgrace the flag or the military. If you think that is why he took a knee, you have missed the point. He took a knee because the anthem did not seem to support that African Americans – particularly African American men – were indeed in the land of the free and home of the brave and had been afforded the same opportunities as their white counterparts. At the time, countless African American men who were *unarmed* were gunned down in record numbers, and no one seemed to care that someone’s son, brother, uncle, the father was senselessly murdered. At that moment, the anthem did not reflect, “one nation, under guard, for liberty and just for all!” He wanted to call public attention to the atrocities of racism.

American citizens all over have come out in support of taking a knee and using what seems to be President Trump’s favorite platform, Twitter, to participate in the hashtag #TakeAKnee. Stars from the hit show ‘Greys Anatomy,’ including creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes, posted a picture of them taking a knee. Tracee Ellis Ross posted a picture of her taking a knee with the caption, “I toggle btw outrage & fear, and I try to bridge them with action & community. I’m so honored to join in solidarity w/ those who #TakeAKnee.” One of the main arguments against taking a knee is that it is disrespectful to veterans, but American veterans are also taking a knee too, so what is the truth? *sips tea*

Football is an American pastime. The NFL has made tens of millions of dollars from its once loyal fans and viewers. But ratings are down, and fans are upset. People are burning all of their team’s clothing. We now have people also burning season tickets, which is outrageous to me. As a season ticket holder, by doing that you are burning money. Like at least sell the tickets, come on now. Erich Nikischer who was a Buffalo Bills stadium worker for almost 30 years, quit his job due to players taking a knee during the anthem.

Moving on to the NBA….let’s first start off by saying that after the Golden State Warriors won the Finals back in June when asked about going to the White House, Steph Curry stated that he most likely would not go. So why Trump is now deciding to be mad about this is beyond me. Trump’s tweet on Saturday, Sept. 23 said, “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating. Therefore invitation is withdrawn!” It’s good to know that while Puerto Rico is without food and water what the president cares about the most is calling out sports stars.

What I admire that the NBA did that the NFL didn’t do is that after Trump sent out that un-presidential tweet, players immediately came behind Curry and supported his decision. Everyone knows of the ‘rivalry,’ if you will, between Lebron James and Curry. But James tweeted, “U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going! So, therefore, ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!”

It is my own belief that I think celebrities and athletes should use the platform they have to speak on the injustices that are happening in the world today. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor,” is a quote from Desmond Tutu that I feel is extremely relevant today. We as Americans have to come together and show that racism and racial injustice is not ok and we have to stand, or in this case, kneel against it.