The first football Sunday occurred after President Trump threw down the gauntlet concerning football player protests during the National Anthem. Just as the president planned, many players joined the protests by kneeling during the salute to the American flag. According to the AP, fans at stadiums booed and yelled for the players to get to their feet. Others cheered. In a million living rooms across the country, emotions ran high, likely mostly negative. The day resulted in bizarre behavior, instances of courage, and acts of ignominy.

Some stood and some did not

The protests were not universal. Neither the Houston Texans nor the Dallas Cowboys participated. The Pittsburgh Steelers hid in their locker room in an attempt to avoid the controversy altogether. The team just brought more ire upon itself when Army veteran Alejandro Villanueva defied his coach and walked out to the field anyway and stood, with his hand over his heart, when the National Anthem was played. Social media and cable television were both on fire with people arguing about the issue, often very heatedly. The controversy continued on talk radio the next day.

The most futile and aggravating protests in a long time

Whatever the kneeling players thought they were doing, they were sending a far different, darker message to the world, according to Michael Brendon Dougherty at the National Review.

The players may think they were protesting inequality, racism, or Trump, or were kneeing in solidarity with their teammates. Millions of people, however, perceived the protests as being against the American flag, against the United States, and even against them personally for voting for Trump or being patriots. The catastrophe for the NFL and for Americans who feel increasingly divided was complete.

Who is to blame?

On one side, a group of entitlement addled millionaires who think they have the right to hijack professional sports games for their private political piques is to blame. So is the NFL, which has been somewhat picky about what speech it tolerates and what it comes down on. Last year the League threatened to fine players who wanted to wear specially designed footwear honoring 9/11 first responders.

The notion that the NFL has been taken over by social justice warriors was inescapable.

The president of the United States does not escape blame either. To be sure, the players knelt right into the trap he set. They might have refused to concede the flag and the National Anthem to Trump, but they did not. However, the president might have used the occasion to try to unify the country. Instead, to turn on its head, the slogan employed by President George W. Bush, he chooses to be a divider, not a uniter, mores the pity.