WASHINGTON – Several players from the National Football League defied United States President Donald Trump on Thursday by staging silent protests during the national anthem on the first day of preseason.
In a repeat of scenes from last season, many players demonstrated against social injustice and police brutality against African Americans by kneeling, raising their fists, sitting on the bench or remaining in the locker room rather than standing during the national anthem.
By protesting, the players defied Trump, who has strongly criticized the protests, as well as the NFL, which in May approved a new regulation to fine teams whose players kneel during the national anthem, although they are allowed to remain in the dressing rooms during the pre-game ceremonies.
Trump praised that decision and said athletes who do not stand up during the anthem “probably should not be in the country.”
The president recently called on the NFL to suspend players for the entire season if they knelt during the anthem.
In June, the White House scrapped the traditional reception for the Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, after several players chose not to attend the event.
Trump also did not invite the NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors, who had also refused to attend the previous year’s ceremony.
During this year’s NBA Finals, LeBron James, at the time still a Cleveland Cavalier, announced that neither team would go to the White House.
Last season, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest what he called police brutality against African Americans.
The NFL is the most popular sports league in the country and generates the most revenue, which in 2017 reached $14 billion.