Former San Francisco 49er player Colin Kaepernick startled the NFL world with his protest of either sitting or kneeling while the National Anthem was playing last season. reported that "when reporters finally asked him about it a few weeks later, the quarterback explained he was protesting police brutality." This action made Kaepernick, whose birth father is a person of color, a polarizing figure and left him a free agent untouched by NFL teams. His actions and those of other athletes who followed his example were slammed by President Donald Trump. He used some unflattering words about league players and team owners, and that started the ball rolling on some mass protests at NFL games this Sunday.

Kneel, sit, and other responses

When Donald Trump, while speaking to a rally in Alabama last week, threw some harsh words at NFL players taking the knee whenever the National Anthem played, his predominantly white audience cheered. Then the President started to exhort team owners to crack down on these same players with threats of suspension or firing, and the whole narrative seemed to shift. According to CNN Trump said, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired. He's fired!'"

Trump also tweeted further comments about the issue.

On Sunday September 24, the third week of the 2017 regular NFL season, players, coaches and officials of certain teams in all of the day’s games did things out of the norm in reaction to President Trump’s pronouncement.

In the Redskins vs. Raiders game, Washington players either locked arms in a line or knelt like Colin Kaepernick did as “The Star Spangled Banner” was sung. Arm-locking or sitting down was the action of choice by some Green Bay Packers in their game against Cincinnati. Both teams in the Seattle-Tennessee game stayed in their locker rooms until the anthem ended.

So did the Steelers in their game against Chicago, save for their former Army Ranger teammate Alejandro Villanueva.

Slamming the sports world

In the wake of these large-scale gestures during the Sunday NFL games, Donald Trump simply reiterated to reporters his wish that team owners take a suspend-or-fire attitude on the National Anthem kneelers.

He insisted that his position is not motivated by race but by the demand of respect for the flag and anthem.

That however does a poor job of justifying his multiple pronouncements on Twitter over the weekend that expanded his sports criticism from just the NFL to the NBA and more. As if Colin Kaepernick's dilemma was not enough, the President then castigated Stephen Curry for dithering on accepting his invitation to the White House for the Golden State Warriors. NBA star LeBron James had something to say about that.