The National Football League has found itself front and center in a free speech controversy after dozens of players engaged in on-field protests during the national anthem before Sunday’s games.
The players’ protests came after President Donald Trump said Friday that team owners should fire athletes who kneel during the anthem. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired,'” Trump said.
His comments added fuel to a fire that’s been burning up the sports world since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last year began taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality. After Kaepernick wasn’t picked up by any NFL team this season, some observers speculated that he had been blackballed over his political statement. This new round of on-field protests stands to amplify Kaepernick’s movement even if he’s not on the gridiron to join them directly.
The controversy has spread beyond the NFL as well. Over the weekend, Trump disinvited the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from from visiting the White House, an honor traditionally given to championship sports teams. Protests, or the conversation about them, has also affected NASCAR, the MLB, the NHL, the WNBA and professional golf — seemingly putting to rest the idea that athletes should “stick to sports.”
Watch the Sports Illustrated team discuss and debate the ongoing NFL protests and President Donald Trump’s reaction live at 10 a.m. ET right here.