President Trump wants NFL players to stop kneeling during the National Anthem, and he made that abundantly clear last Friday at a rally in Alabama calling the players who partake in these peaceful protests "sons of bitches." Trump drove his point home over the weekend with numerous tweets disparaging the protest. The president seems convinced that the players are protesting the flag and openly disrespecting military veterans and their service to this country. What he fails to understand is that the protests have never been about disrespecting America, and have always been about racial injustice, the same racial injustice that Trump himself has either ignored or helped stoke.

Trump condones police misconduct

The primary focus of the anthem protests has been to bring awareness to issues plaguing the African-American community such as racial profiling and police violence. One could argue that Trump has endorsed both of these practices. In a July speech to members of the Suffolk County Police Department, Trump made it clear he was alright with officers being "rough" with suspects being taken into custody. In the same speech, Trump told officers to "Please don't be too nice." These words from the president were incredibly irresponsible considering this type of conduct is the reason why police departments throughout America are losing, or have lost, the trust of the communities they serve.

After Trump enacted a Muslim Ban early in his presidency, many accused him of opening the door to racial profiling. Trump seemed fine with this as he had suggested during his campaign that we should be profiling Muslims. But just in case there was any ambiguity as to where Trump stands on racial profiling, he made his position crystal clear last August with the pardoning of Joe Arpaio.

Arpaio is a former Arizona sheriff whose controversial treatment of suspected criminals has made him one of the more divisive figures in the country. Arpaio was facing jail time for criminal contempt after ignoring a court order to stop racial profiling. With this pardon, Trump has sent a strong message law enforcement that harassing citizens based solely on their skin color is an acceptable practice not worthy of punishment.

Jeff Sessions reignites the drug war

Trump isn't the only influential figure exacerbating racial tension in America; Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become a staunch opponent of the ideals being brought to light by protesting NFL players. Sessions has been accused of rejuvenating America's long and failed drug war by asking prosecutors around the country to punish criminals with the harshest sentences possible.These cruel practices have not only shown little reduction in crime, but they have also devastated People Of Color for decades. A black man is two-and-a-half times more likely to be arrested for drug possession than a white person. The drug war has been referred to by many outlets as a continuation of the Jim Crow era.

The call for police reform has been supported by NFL protesters taking a knee as well as the majority of Americans from both parties. Several police departments around the country have responded to these demands by focusing more on de-escalation training, community policing, and requiring their officers to use body cameras. Despite the overwhelming bipartisan support, Sessions is opposed to the idea of police reform. In a recent speech given to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Sessions criticized the idea of police reform claiming it is a waste of money and personnel and could make communities less safe. As head of the justice department, Sessions' opinion carries a ton of weight, and he has made it clear police misconduct is not a major priority to him.

It is no surprise that some NFL players have chosen to kneel for the anthem. When the Commander in Chief and the nation’s top cop are not only turning a blind eye to the concerns of minorities but actively opposing them, it is easy to understand why so many Americans have become frustrated. If Trump legitimately wanted these players to stand for the anthem, he wouldn't hurl insults or false accusations, he would listen to them. He would recognize that their anger is shared by millions of people of color in this country who feel the odds are stacked against them. Until Trump decides to lead on this issue instead of making provocative comments that further divide the country, we can expect this and many other protests to continue.

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