Multiple NFL players say they have been explicitly and implicitly warned against any kind of demonstration during the national anthem in the weeks following Donald Trump’s directions to owners to “get that son of a bitch off the field” for protesting racial inequality.
Before this weekend’s slate of games in the National Football League, The Root was contacted by 8 players and coaches who all spoke on the condition of anonymity. Of those NFL employees, three players and one position coach all say that owners, team management or members of the coaching staffs have instructed them not to kneel or have any demonstration during the national anthem.
“They didn’t say what would happen,” said one NFL linebacker who plays for one of eight teams whose owners donated to Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign. “But they let us know that we are expected to stand during the anthem.”
Another player texted that after Trump made his remarks last week, his coach informed them that they would make one demonstration as a team, and they would be done with it. According to the player, “certain players were allowed to speak on it after the game last week and then they said the case was closed. Whoever did something after then was doing it as a individual and they always say ain’t no room for individuals here.”
One member of an NFL coaching staff said the general manager asked the position coaches (who are often the lowest ranked coaches, but have the most contact with the players) to “feel out” which players might be thinking of taking a knee and to “talk to them.”
“Out of all the players you see taking a knee, there are probably three times as many who want to do it but are scared. If you ain’t a 1 or 2 at your position (meaning a first or second-string player) you ain’t doing it. People have to feed they family.”
One player told The Root that the protest was never discussed by the entire team in his locker room until Trump’s comments at a Huntsville, Ala. political rally. Before then, players talked about it among themselves, but they held a team meeting to talk about it.
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Also, here’s the official “I Don’t Kneel” t-shirt (we have hoodie, long-sleeve and v-neck options, too!) that has part of the proceeds going to the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans!