Many of us in the UK are probably vaguely aware of the fact that yes, racism is still a big problem in the United States and yes, Donald Trump has managed to give new life to the undercurrent of hate and prejudice that is already deeply rooted in American society. But the real, day-to-day consequences of this are easily left out of the bigger, better-publicised conversations about things like police brutality, travel bans and mass protest.
Back in August of last year, American football player Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem at one of his games to peacefully protest racial injustice in America. While the NFL reportedly doesn’t require players to stand for the national anthem and Kaepernick’s teammates supported his decision, Donald Trump took huge offence at this and branded it an insult to the flag.
This particular movement of peacefully protest during ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ has spread across the American sporting world and has continued to be taken up by prominent players and high-profile celebrities. At a rally in Alabama last Friday though, Trump, of course, took it upon himself to express his disdain towards the players who have been protesting racism, describing the move as a ‘total disrespect for our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for’.
The irony of these words spoken by a man who is meant to be Leader of the Free World yet is actively doing everything in his power to encourage aggression, hatred and division among an already fragmented society, is almost too difficult to express. ‘You know what’s hurting the game? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knew when they’re playing our great national anthem’, Trump said.
In a move that essentially works to drive an even bigger wedge between his predominantly white audience at a rally and ‘those’ predominantly black ‘son(s) of bitches’ to distract from the fact that people are committed to highlighting racial injustice in the Land of the Free, Trump added: ‘Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag to say “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now! Out. He’s fired! He’s fired!”’
And of course, a series of tweets followed a little later:
‘If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect … our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!’, Trump tweeted. Funny, because I can confidently say (hope) that the majority of people would assume that any player (or otherwise) shouldn’t have to live in a society where racial discrimination is endorsed by the country’s leader.
Multiple NFL players linked arms and took a knee at a game at London’s Wembley Stadium on Sunday and it’s reportedly the largest number of players to have knelt during the national anthem at an NFL game.
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Since then, Shonda Rhimes became the latest in a growing number of celebrities outside of the realm of sport that includes Stevie Wonder, Pharell Williams, Gillian Anderson and Orange Is The New Black’s Uzo Aduba, to kneel in support for the Take A Knee movement. Shonda shared a picture to Instagram from Grey’s Anatomy 300th episode party, where she and some cast members knelt with their hands on their hearts.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.