Donald Trump insists 'take a knee' NFL boycott has 'nothing to do with race'

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More and more players are taking a stand, while Trump continues to call for a boycott. (AFP)
More and more players are taking a stand, while Trump continues to call for a boycott. (AFP)

Donald Trump has insisted his attack on NFL players has “nothing to do with race” after a number of stars openly defied their own President by kneeling during the national anthem.

At Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday afternoon, players from teams including the Jacksonville Jaguars and Washington Redskins refused to standing during the ‘Stars and Stripes’.

The #takeaknee movement – to encourage a conversation about racial injustice and police brutality – started more than 13 months ago when Colin Kaepernick, a San Francisco 49ers quarterback, got down on one knee in a form of peaceful protest.

The demonstration has now gathered momentum after Mr Trump lashed out at the protest on Twitter and called for people to boycott the NFL. He wrote: “Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country. Tell them to stand!

The Pittsburgh Steelers sideline is nearly empty during the playing of the national anthem at Soldier Field. Photograph: Kiichiro Sato/AP
The Pittsburgh Steelers sideline is nearly empty during the playing of the national anthem at Soldier Field. Photograph: Kiichiro Sato/AP

“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”

Now, a growing number of teams have joined the movement. 30 of the 32 NFL teams have released statements in response to Trump’s words, and many are also showing support on the field.

The Pittsburgh Steelers refused to come out to the field during the national anthem before their game in Chicago. Hours later, the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans both did the same.

Baltimore Ravens players, including former star Ray Lewis (second right) kneel during the playing of the national anthem (AP)
Baltimore Ravens players, including former star Ray Lewis (second right) kneel during the playing of the national anthem (AP)

Shahid Khan, the Jacksonville Jaguars owner who donated a million dollars to the Trump presidential campaign, locked arms with his team as a show of solidarity.

Trump has insisted that his boycott has nothing to do with race. At a Republican rally in Alabama on Friday he described the protests as ‘disrespect of our heritage.’

Several Indianapolis Colts’ players took a knee ahead of their game against the Cleveland Browns. (AP)
Several Indianapolis Colts’ players took a knee ahead of their game against the Cleveland Browns. (AP)

When asked by a reporter if his words were inflaming racial tensions, Trump responded: “I never said anything about race. This has nothing to do with race or anything else. This has to do with respect for our country and respect for our flag.”

The movement has sparked an online debate, with those supporting the players using the hashtag #TakeAKnee, and those who agree with Trump tweeting #BoycottNFL.

Colin Kaepernick (centre) was the first to drop a knee as a protest against police brutality. (Getty)
Colin Kaepernick (centre) was the first to drop a knee as a protest against police brutality. (Getty)

Now, Trump has encouraged NFL owners to sack players who refuse to stand.

Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs, pointed out to Fox News Sunday that players had a ‘first amendment right’ to protest, but at the same time, ‘NFL owners also have a right to fire those players’.

READ MORE:

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Donald Trump: Kneeling comments ‘not to do with race’

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