All eyes are on the NFL today, and not just because it's game day for several teams.
The league has become the epicenter of a political and social #TakeTheKnee movement after President Donald Trump criticized former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand during the National Anthem in the 2016 season as a sign of protest against racial injustices. Trump told crowds at a Huntsville, Alabama rally on Friday, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b---- off the field right now? Out. He's fired! He's fired!'"
In the wake of Trump's words, NBA star Stephen Curry declined an invitation to the White House, and Trump retaliated with a Twitter storm condemning Curry and other professional athletes for protesting the National Anthem.
Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
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....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
...our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
Other athletic clubs and players have since reacted unfavorably to Trump's statements, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement against his remarks as well. "Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities," Goodell said.
On Sunday, owners and players from several teams, including the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens, knelt and locked arms during the National Anthem ahead of their matchup. The Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they would remain in the locker room during the anthem to "remove ourselves from this circumstance," according to Coach Mike Tomlin.
Additionally, the league has chosen to respond to the controversy by running a one-minute ad, which was originally developed for the Super Bowl, during NBC's Sunday Night Football telecast. About the decision to run the ad, an NFL spokesman told CNN, "We think this is the single best response to demonstrate what we are about. It stands in stark contrast to some who practice the politics of division."
The ad showcases various players and team officials from several time periods showing support to one another on and off the field and declares, "Inside these lines, we don't have to come from the same place to help each other reach the same destination. Inside these lines, we may have our differences, but recognize there's more than unites us."