Take a seat, America — or perhaps a knee.
Even though President Trump reignited the ever-flickering debate over kneeling in protest during the national anthem earlier this week with his high-profile spat with the Philadelphia Eagles, it turns out that most Americans disagree with the commander in chief. A poll released by Quinnipiac University on Thursday found that a majority of American voters believe that kneeling during the "Star-Spangled Banner" is hardly unpatriotic.
The poll found that 53 percent of respondents believe professional athletes have the constitutional right to protest on the field. Fifty-eight percent of voters said that kneeling is not unpatriotic, while just 35 percent believed the gesture was sacrilege.
Still, 51 percent of respondents said they do support the NFL's decision to instate a new policy that requires players to stand during the national anthem or otherwise remain in the locker room. Under the new rules, if players take a knee during the "Star-Spangled Banner," their teams will be fined. Trump, who has been putting pressure on the NFL for over a year over the anthem dispute, believes staying in the locker room is just as bad as kneeling.
There was a clear divide between Republicans and Democrats who participated in the poll, with 70 percent of Republicans calling the protests unpatriotic and just 11 percent of Democrats agreeing. Athletes have been kneeling in protest since 2016, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first refused to stand for the national anthem as a means of protesting inequality and police brutality in the U.S
GQ has named former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick "citizen of the year" in honor of his decision to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial oppression in America. The football player began his silent protest in 2016, but it came to new attention this year thanks to criticism from President Trump.
— GQ Magazine (@GQMagazine) November 13, 2017
"In my 90th year of life, to see people like Colin Kaepernick having gotten the message and carrying the cause forward is the greatest reward I could ask for," said singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte in one of several statements about Kaepernick that GQ solicited from notable people. "Colin is a remarkable young man," Belafonte continued. "The fact that he spoke out on police brutality against young black men — I thought it was absolutely admirable." Read the rest of those statements here. Bonnie Kristian
Oakland A's catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to join NFL players like Colin Kaepernick by kneeling in protest during the national anthem. Maxwell took a knee before his team's Saturday evening game against the Texas Rangers.
"My decision has been coming for a long time," he explained after the game. "I finally got to the point where I thought the inequality of man is being discussed, and it's being practiced from our president."
"The point of my kneeling is not to disrespect our military; it's not to disrespect our Constitution; it's not to disrespect this country," Maxwell continued. "My hand over my heart symbolizes the fact that I am and I'll forever be an American citizen, and I'm more than grateful to be here. But my kneeling is what is getting the attention because I'm kneeling for the people that don't have a voice."
Maxwell acted in response to President Trump's weekend attacks on Kaepernick and other athletes who kneel during the anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice. "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now?'" Trump asked a rally crowd Friday. Since Trump's initial comments, pro athletes, coaches, and owners have united in opposition to his remarks. Bonnie Kristian
Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens players in London for a game Sunday locked arms and took a knee during the U.S. national anthem in solidarity with athletes like Colin Kaepernick who have come under attack by President Trump this weekend. The teams' coaches and Jaguars owner Shahid Khan joined the gesture of defiance of Trump's critique of Kaepernick's stand against police brutality and racial injustice in America.
— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) September 24, 2017
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti also issued a statement endorsing the athletes' right to protest on the field. "We respect [our players'] demonstration and support them 100 percent," he said. "All voices need to be heard. That's democracy in its highest form."
Meanwhile, Mike Tomlin, coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, announced Sunday that his team would not "participate in the anthem" in the afternoon game against the Chicago Bears. The Steelers have decided to stay in the locker room during the anthem, Tomlin said, so players aren't "forced to choose sides."
Rex Ryan, former coach of the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets, expressed dismay at Trump's comments while speaking on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown. "I supported Donald Trump," Ryan said. "But I'm reading these comments and it's appalling to me, and I'm sure it's appalling to almost any citizen in our country. It should be."