When President Donald Trump urged NFL owners to “fire or suspend” protesting players at an Alabama rally on September 22, 2017, many wondered how the league’s players would respond entering Week 3 of the NFL season. Would the players kneel or stand? If players protested, how would NFL owners respond?
For the first time ever, watching the national anthem became must-see TV for NFL broadcasts during and in many cases, the protests overshadowed the actual outcomes of the Week 3 games. When it was all said and done, over 200 NFL players protested in Week 3 –– and followed in Colin Kaepernick’s footsteps –– to deliver a powerful message to Trump. Most coaches and owners also publicly supported their players. It was a seminal moment for the sports world that rarely intersects with politics.
While the protests decreased over the course of the season, the demonstrations ultimately prompted the NFL to unveil a $90 million social justice initiative to combat social inequality. The initiative came with its share of controversy between the NFL and the Player’s Coalition, but still marked a sign of progress.
Although Kaepernick wasn’t on an NFL roster, the protests during the national anthem became as widespread as ever in 2017.
By Didier Morais