• Sports
  • Football

NFL Player Who Helped Start Kneeling Movement Says This Is What Trump Gets Wrong About It

2 minute read

San Francisco 49ers player Eric Reid said he began kneeling during the national anthem last year alongside former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick because he felt “furious, hurt and hopeless” over recent police violence against black people.

“We know that racism and white privilege are both very much alive today,” he wrote in a New York Times column published on Monday. “And it’s disheartening and infuriating that President Trump has referred to us with slurs but the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., as ‘very fine people.’ His remarks are a clear attempt to deepen the rift that we’ve tried so hard to mend.”

Trump called for NFL owners to fire players who protest by kneeling during the national anthem, prompting more than 200 players to kneel or sit during the anthem on Sunday. “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 Friday at a rally.

The President has since repeatedly criticized the peaceful protests for “disrespecting” the flag and anthem.

“It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel,” Reid wrote in the Times. “We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Katie Reilly at Katie.Reilly@time.com