President Donald Trump mocked the NFL for declining ratings on Sunday, placing the blame again on players taking a knee during the national anthem.
Trump claimed that viewership was down 13 percent for Thursday’s season-opener between the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles; entertainment industry publication Variety put the drop at 8 percent. He also suggested ratings would continue to decline unless all players “stood proudly for our Flag and Anthem” and that the display was all shown on the broadcast.
Philadelphia Eagles players Michael Bennett and Jay Ajayi took a seat on the bench near the end of the anthem before Thursday’s game, but there were otherwise no visible protests.
On Sunday, Miami Dolphins receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson knelt in protest, as they did during the preseason, while defensive end Robert Quinn raised a fist.
The president also reacted earlier this week when core sponsor and uniform provider Nike announced an agreement with out-of-work quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Trump, who described the renewal of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign with Kaepernick as a “terrible message,” dug in via Twitter on Wednesday.
“Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way? As far as the NFL is concerned, I just find it hard to watch, and always will, until they stand for the FLAG!,” Trump wrote.
The NFL Players Coalition released an essay to The Players’ Tribune on Wednesday, the eve of the 2018 regular season, asking fans and media to focus on the player initiatives and not players peacefully protesting by kneeling during the national anthem.
“Our work will continue this season. We hope the media stops asking the same old questions about, ‘Will they or won’t they protest?’ Instead, we want them to focus on our efforts to create a better country for every citizen, and on the reasons why we have not yet met that goal,” the entry reads. “And we hope that the press, our fans and our skeptics recognize that our desire to draw attention to these pressing issues, either through protest or our off-the-field work, is our own vow of loyalty.”
Players identified as part of the coalition on Wednesday include Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and defensive end Chris Long, Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin and Jets quarterback Josh McCown. They promised continued support for Kaepernick, whose collusion suit against the NFL was cleared to advance in court earlier this week.
“Colin Kaepernick started a movement through protest, taking a knee to put a laser focus on the men and women who have died because of police brutality,” the players wrote. “His efforts have inspired us to work on behalf of our lost brothers’ memory to try to stop the carnage. He did this at great personal cost to himself. Surely it’s an act of patriotism to forfeit your job to fight for others.”
Commissioner Roger Goodell and the coalition were part of a negotiation that sparked the NFL to contribute nearly $100 million to causes considered important to African-American communities.
—Field Level Media