The trend of athletes kneeling or sitting during the national anthem to protest racial disparity, especially in interactions with the police, reached fever pitch over the weekend. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the controversial protests last year, and others—in the NFL and in other sports—had joined him since then.
President Donald Trump criticized those athletes in comments at a rally Friday and on Twitter over the weekend, suggesting that athletes who do not stand for the national anthem should be fired. In response, some 200 NFL players and coaches kneeled or sat during the national anthem on Sunday. Others stood but locked arms or put their hands on the shoulders of those who were protesting.
The Buffalo Bills had about a dozen players kneel during the anthem, and running back LeSean McCoy continued stretching. Hall of Famer Jim Kelly initially criticized McCoy’s actions before softening his stance Tuesday, telling the Associated Press: “I want to be clear that I agree with the reason some NFL players have chosen to peacefully protest, and appreciate players, coaches and organizations being unified. I would hope that while we all, myself included, may not agree with using the national anthem as the appropriate forum for such display, we should continue to strive to work through these issues with great respect for each other.”
This week’s Snap Poll asked readers their opinions on the athletes’ protests and the president’s response. A majority—62 percent—supported either the protests or the athletes’ right to protest.
More than 900 respondents participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Sept. 26 and 27.
How do you feel about athletes protesting during the national anthem?
Support — 30%
Disagree with protesting but support their right — 32%
Oppose — 38%
How do you feel about President Trump’s comments on the protests?
Strongly support — 21%
Support — 20%
Oppose — 14%
Strongly oppose — 46%
Most of us do not like flag burning but we allow it because it’s freedom of expression. Most of us do not like neo nazi speech but we allow it because it’s freedom of expression. And whether we like it or not, we need to allow people to kneel or skip the national anthem for that same reason. Trump does not care about the Constitution and he does not understand it. This is just the latest example of that.
The divisive, disrespectful, misguided and ungrateful behavior that the NFL (Commissioner, owners, coaches and players) has displayed demonstrates a total lack of respect for our Nation, its citizens and all of our Veterans, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good and unity that our flag and National Anthem represent in the world, to our Nation, to our citizens and to our Veterans. How about taking a knee and protesting during the opening kick off to protest during a game? I bet that would go over well with the Commissioner, the owners, the coaches, the player and the fans as they got a delay of game penalty. But no they won’t protest during the regular game time because it’s easier to do it during the Anthem because it doesn’t take time away from the precious game. I’m done with the NFL. As for me and my house, we’re a NFL No-Zone. Good riddance.
—John Bartolotto, Col. USA (Ret.)
This is America. Land of the free. Freedom to speak your mind. That’s what free speech is all about isn’t it? Trump is a bully. So he will say whatever it takes to coerce his view point. After all, he exercises his right to say whatever comes across his head without thinking about it before hand. Maybe his freedom of speech should be taken away.
As much as my family loves football, we have taken a pledge not to watch or attend any team’s game who does not respect the American Flag and the National Anthem … If they are so dissatisfied, let them move to another country.
The right to peaceful protest is part of what our freedoms are all about. But this isn’t really what this is about. This has more to do with the President’s narcissistic personality disorder and his efforts to keep his racist base thumping their chests.
—Greg Reynolds, East Rochester
This country has a history of protests. Both violent and non-violent. What about the Revolutionary War? How many protests since? This is what we are all about.
I think respectful protests are part of our country’s history. As long as the athlete protesters behave in a respectful manner, I feel they are entitled to show that some of our nation’s citizens are unfairly treated and not respected. The President is the one being disrespectful in his bursts of opinions via short worded media that is divisive and gives little comfort to anyone.
Since the founding of this country, millions of American have died for the flag and millions more have made sacrifices for the flag that represents the values of this country, who we are and what we stand for. Our flag deserves all the respect regardless of your opinions of what is going on in the country. Our flag is sacred and should be honored. Our flag should not be used as means for protests. To those who protest at the flag and the anthem, I suggest them to move to other countries that have values to their liking. We don’t need them or want them here to divide our country. There is no one here to stop you from leaving if this country and what she stands for are not what you want. Just don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
—Patrick Ho, Rochester Optical
I have been a season ticket holder for 26 years. I am seriously considering not any more games this year and not renewing my ticket for next year due to the disrespectful behavior of LeSean McCoy. Also, I wish someone would calculate the total of the salaries of the 200 kneelers and calculate the total donations made by them for any reason to ANY charity (hurricane relief, BLM activities, college/community endowments, etc). Then calculate the percentage of total donations to total salaries. Even with Common Core math, the percent will be less than 1%. “When you talk the talk, you gotta’ walk the walk. And taking a knee ain’t walking the walk.”
—Jerry McCabe, Irondequoit
Maybe we all missed the quote by one of our most famous progressive presidents—Woodrow Wilson… “The things that the flag stands for were created by the experiences of a great people. Everything that it stands for was written by their lives. The flag is the embodiment, not of sentiment, but of history.” Therefore when we disrespect the flag, we disrespect ourselves.
—Steve Wichtowski, Honeoye
When the taunting and ballet started, I cut way back on my NFL time. When the protests during the anthem started, I stopped completely. Everyone has a right to peacefully protest which I fully support. However, there is a time and place for everything. Multi-millionaire dollar athletes can protest all they want, but not during a supposed leisure fun activity and especially during the flag presentation or the singing of our national anthem. Is there anything left that is not subject to protest?
These protests while making sense to the victims of the unfairness of our justice system, also send a mixed message of disrespect to their nation. When seeing someone taking a knee, we should rethink not a moment of disrespect, but rather a moment of personal reflection to injustice. Is the justice system unfair? This is an issue we all need to think about. Are poor, minorities or disenfranchised at a disadvantage when finding themselves in the law enforcement/justice system? As to our President, he has again, poked the bear and got us talking. As I support free speech, I don’t necessarily agree with President, but I’m glad to have him raise issues that have been ignored for too long. This is an opportunity for us all to take stock of our system and ourselves.
—Daniel Herpst, Rochester
I believe that we should act properly in our support of the historic symbolism of our country. I also believe that every citizen has the right to express their views in ways that do not interfere with or demean the rights of others. I hope that leaders, whether they be leaders of the country or leaders of their teams would exercise their individual rights in a way that promotes the values that our country and its symbolism stands for. President Trump’s expression of support for the country’s flag and national anthem was proper but the manner in which he expressed himself was, in my opinion not proper and demeaned his office. LeSean McCoy’s verbal comments as a “Team Leader” of the Buffalo Bills were proper and well thought out. His behavior on the sidelines during the playing of the National Anthem on Sunday, September 24th were not, in my opinion, proper and demeaned himself as a leader and his team and the city it represents in that moment. We are all free people and we must exercise our freedoms as best we can in a manner that does not demean or harm others.
—Robert Zinnecker, Penfield
The highest form of patriotism seems to be holding your nation to its ideals. Two of those ideals should be equal protection under the law and the freedom to speak one’s mind. Suggesting people should be fired for protesting the former by doing the latter seems to be an un-American proposition.
—Todd Butler, Causewave Community Partners
As a fan I’m appalled and offended, and am inclined to withhold my support. Freedom of speech is enshrined and represented by our flag. Don’t disrespect the freedom represented by it, paid for by many who made the ultimate sacrifice. Team owners are selling their product to the fans! They better get smart before we stop buying it! Owners should tell their players to protest on their own time! Fans opposed should sit in their cars for the first quarter and let them play in an empty stadium. Or better yet, boycott the concession stands. Hit them in the pocket book and see how long this goes on!
—George Thomas, Ogden
The National Anthem should be held to the highest standard—standing at attention and removing your cap for starters. I personally hold my hand over my heart as we were taught back in school. Anything else is disrespectful, and should not be tolerated by management. The compromise the Dallas Cowboys came up with on Monday night is fine—kneel or pray or hold hands for a period of reflection or protest before or after the anthem, but not during.
The President continues to be a POOR role model with his comments which are very divisive. He’s a joke when it comes to providing leadership that builds consensus.
As much as it is a person’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest, that doesn’t mean that one may freely do so at work. Football players are working when they are playing football games. Every employer has codes of conduct, and my employer would not accept it if I held a protest at work—I would be disciplined or fired. The team owners and the league dictate the clothing, footwear, and behaviors that are acceptable or not for the players. They should make a code of conduct dictating protests held during games. As the daughter of a WWII Veteran, these protests are so disrespectful and repugnant to me that I will not watch any more football games or give one more cent of my hard-earned money to these teams/owners/league.
To quote Bronze Star veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom David French, “Which is the greater danger to the ideals embodied by the American flag, a few football players’ taking a knee at the national anthem or the most powerful man in the world’s demanding that they be fired and their livelihoods destroyed for engaging in speech he doesn’t like?”
—Peter J. Gregory, Esq., Rochester
This was a dying issue until Friday. Trump uses his platform to pull our attention away from other more important issues (North Korea, devastation in Houston and Puerto Rico…). He knew that his rant on Friday would do this and I am disappointed our President would play the American people like this. It is highly emotional topic on both sides and there is no right or wrong just anger. This does not Make America Great Again!
—Kevin Best, Best Times Financial Planning
The comment that best support these protests was from a black NFL player last year who said, “Why should I show respect for the flag of a country that continues to show lack of respect for people who look like me.” For most of us who have grown up with white privilege, we have no idea of the toll that disrespect and the many daily micro aggressions suffered by our black brothers and sisters takes on the dignity of their lives. I totally support their right to make a strong public showing that helps create a conversation that may lead to the end of the racial inequality that plagues our great country.
—Alan Ziegler, Futures Funding Corp.