Here we go again.
OAKLAND, Calif. — Here we go again.
President Donald Trump renewed his attack on the NFL this morning after two players — Miami’s Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson — elected to kneel during the national anthem before their preseason games.
“The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem,” Trump tweeted. “Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their ‘outrage’ at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love. Be happy, be cool! 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!”
It’s unclear what exactly Trump meant when he said players couldn’t define what they’re protesting. They’ve repeatedly said they’re protesting race relations in the country, including inequalities in the criminal justice system and police brutality, among other causes.
For example, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins — who raised his first before Philly’s preseason opener — has met with elected officials to push for criminal justice reform. Current Lions safety Glover Quin and former Lions receiver Anquan Boldin have joined him on such trips.
Before Thursday’s exhibition, Jenkins wore a shirt that said people of color make up more than 60 percent of the United States’ prison population.
The Lions didn’t have anybody who protested the first two weeks of last season, but that changed once Trump called players who were protesting racial inequality “sons of (expletives)” who should be fired. The following week, eight players knelt during the anthem before a game against Atlanta. The rest of the team locked arms in solidarity, a move that lasted the rest of the season. Owner Martha Firestone Ford also joined them on the field.
After the game, Ford urged players to begin standing for the anthem, and pledged to donate money to their chosen charities if they complied. Everyone except linebackers Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Steve Longa obliged the request. The following week, everyone stood, and nobody knelt the rest of the season.
The NFL passed a rule this offseason stating players must stand for the anthem, but had the option to remain in the locker room if they didn’t want to comply. The league said the rule was a compromise with the players, except players weren’t consulted on the rule. The NFLPA filed a grievance, and the rule has been wiped from the books.
Which means we’re back to square-one heading into the 2018 season — with players allowed to observe the anthem however they want on the field, and the president criticizing those who use that freedom to protest.
Lions coach Matt Patricia has repeatedly declined to say what his policy will be for players during the anthem. They open the preseason tonight in Oakland against the Raiders.
“Obviously, that’s a little bit of a touchy subject,” guard T. J. Lang said earlier this offseason. “I’m always going to stand for the national anthem. That’s just me. I can’t really speak for anybody else. I understand the reasons why some guys choose not to and that’s fine.”
He added: “I think it’s ultimately going to be players’ choice. I think we’re starting to find out not a lot of owners like that.”