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‘Stand for the anthem or leave the country’ says Trump

By Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad | Last updated: May 30, 2018 - 12:04:51 PM

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Athletes, activists slam president’s latest remarks

President Donald Trump
When the National Football League announced in a new policy May 23 that “all team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem” or will be fined, President Donald Trump voiced his approval and agreement with the decision.

“You have to stand proudly for the National Anthem and the NFL owners did the right thing if that’s what they’ve done,” Mr. Trump said in a Fox News interview that aired May 24. 

“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,” said Mr. Trump, who is no stranger to voicing his anger at Black NFL players who kneeled during the anthem to call attention to police brutality and racism.

Mr. Trump’s latest remarks drew harsh reactions and rebuke from athletes and activists.  Doug Baldwin of the Seattle Seahawks reportedly called Mr. Trump an “idiot” and Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos allegedly called the president’s comments “disgusting.”

The president believes the change is to implement respect for the country. “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,” Mr. Trump stated during the Fox interview.

Several New England Patriots players kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sept. 24, 2017 in Foxborough, Mass. Photos: AP/Wide World photos

Critics argue Mr. Trump’s remarks are just another example in a long list of actions to curtail and control Black male athletes from speaking their minds. The NFL is 70 percent Black.

Activist and community organizer Bree Newsome posted on Twitter her reaction to the NFL’s ruling and Mr. Trump’s response: “This is NOT about the anthem. It’s about using the NFL, a sport dominated by Black athletes, as a way to publicly reinforce white supremacy & racial caste. Message is directed at anyone who would dare challenge racism. It serves same purpose as whipping a slave while others watch.”

Activist and co-founder of Real Justice PAC, Shaun King was equally displeased as Ms. Newsome. He also wrote on Twitter: “I spoke to several NFL players today who said they intend to stay in the locker room during the National Anthem, but that the pressure being put on them by the team not to, including most of their teammates, is fierce. They each said Trump has legitimately spooked the NFL.”

Some critics are asking if the U.S. president has a strong yet hidden hand on decision-making in the NFL. Mr. Trump has previously told reporters that the league was “going to hell” if something did not change to prohibit kneeling during the National Anthem. 

“The current arrangement is humiliating. Trump insults and degrades professional athletes, then virtually dictates the new policies the NFL needs to adopt, then brags about it. And African-American players who’ve spent their entire lives preparing to play in the league are simply expected to shut up and take it,” wrote Mr. King in a recent article on the Intercept titled, “The Unbearable Whiteness of NFL Ownership.”