President Donald Trump welcomed NFL’s decision to fine teams if players don’t stand for the national anthem. In an interview broadcast on Thursday, he asked whether the players refusing to stand should be in the United States.
Some players took a knee during the last season to protest the police shootings of unarmed black men. This sparked a nationwide controversy. The President called the players unpatriotic and demanded that the protests must end. On Wednesday, trying to steer clear of yet another scandalous season, the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell said that teams would be fined if the players do not stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” If any players do not wish to stand for the anthem, they are advised to stay inside the locker rooms and come out only when the anthem is finished.
Talking to Fox News, Trump said, “I think that’s good. I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms, but still, I think it’s good. You have to stand, proudly, for the national anthem. Or you shouldn’t be playing; you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”
Most NFL players are African-Americans, and their protests against police killings of unarmed people of color continued all through the last season. While some stood arm-in-arm for the anthem, a few refused to stand. The union of the athletes, the NFL Players Association, said that it had not been consulted on this matter. They also plan to challenge the order if it violates the collective bargaining agreement.
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson wasn’t impressed with the league’s idea of giving in to the Trump administration. He said that the team owners should not ‘fold’ under pressure and must not deny their players the right to question aggressive policing of their racial group. “This is not about disrespecting the flag, this is about using their platform to advocate a social justice position that all citizens should be treated with human dignity even when pulled over by police,” Johnson said while talking to Reuters.
He also raised questions on Trump’s resolve to solve the real issues of the country and added that the President has shown “time and time again that he lacks the intellectual curiosity to really address serious issues confronting this nation.”
The decision by the league is meeting widespread critique. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has launched a petition to make them rescind the policy and respect the players’ voices. The union said that the Trump administration and the predominantly white NFL team owners consider the protests disrespectful. In a statement, it said, “Respect and love for America doesn’t require blindness to America’s failure to honor its promise of racial justice and equality – failures that are made even more evident each time the police murder a person of color and get away with it.”
Another organization, the National Action Network, will protest this decision through a rally outside the NFL headquarters in New York City on Friday. Meanwhile, Democratic Senators and players alike are speaking against the policy through various social platforms.