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The NFL Will Now Fine Players Who Kneel For The Anthem And People Are Livid

Today, in a cowardly attempt to avoid becoming the focus of Trump’s tweets, NFL owners voted to give themselves the ability to fine players who refuse to stand for the national anthem. Players will be given the option of remaining in the locker room instead of coming to the field, but if they choose to take a knee during the anthem, they could be fined.

In a press conference explaining the decision, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said:

”We want people to be respectful to the National Anthem. We want people to stand, that’s all personnel, and make sure that they treat this moment in a respectful fashion that’s something I think we owe. We’ve been very sensitive in making sure that we give players choices, but we do believe that that moment is an important moment and one that we are going to focus on.”

The New York Times obtained audio from an October 2017 meeting between players and owners as they strategized how to handle NFL players protesting police violence and systemic racism during the national anthem. The audio reveals the owners were mostly concerned with damage control and wary of being targeted by Trump on Twitter.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft and longtime Trump ally summed up the owners’ fears when he said, “The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America. It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”

Colin Kaepernick, who started the protests over police brutality in 2016, still doesn’t have a job and has filed an official grievance with the NFL over being blackballed. He initially protested by remaining seated during the anthem, but after an NFL player who had served in the military told him he found it disrespectful, Kepernick started kneeling instead, the same way NFL players kneel when a fellow player is injured. It’s not a protest against the Star Spangled Banner or the American flag, it’s a protest to raise awareness of the problem of police brutality and systemic racism.

The reaction from Twitter was… not positive:

Several people even threatened their own boycott of the NFL, whose ratings have been declining recently thanks to fragmented audiences.

James Poniewozik of The New York Times nailed the real problem with the owners trying to appease Trump: He’ll continue to use the issue to stoke racial grievances anyway.

And that’s really at the heart of the matter. As long as Trump can use the issue to divide the country and rally his rabid base, he’ll keep doing it.

If you think there’s any doubt team Trump will feel emboldened by the owners caving, just look at Vice President Pence’s victory lap:

When Trump hosted a NASCAR champion on Monday he had this to say,

“And I will tell you –one thing I know about NASCAR, they do indeed, Brian, stand for the playing of the national anthem, right,” Trump continued, naming NASCAR CEO Brian France. “They do indeed. Somebody said maybe you shouldn’t say that, that’ll be controversial. I said, that’s OK, NASCAR’s not going to mind it at all. Right fellas? They don’t mind it at all.”

Oddly, the same crowd who complains about FREE SPEECH and GETTING SILENCED every time some left-wing students at Oberlin heckle a crusty old racist has nothing to say about the NFL punishing employees for exercising their first amendment rights.