Many NFL players took a knee or avoided the National Anthem altogether in protest over the weekend.
According to Fox News, one man was so upset by the Buffalo Bills protesting the National Anthem, he actually quit his job after working at the stadium for 30 years. Erich Nikischer told reporters “I waited until the national anthem ended, I took off my shirt, threw my Bills hat on the ground, walked out.”
Before the game, the Buffalo Bills released a statement notifying fans they were offended by President Trump’s statement that players kneeling during the National Anthem should be fired: “President Trump’s remarks were divisive and disrespectful to the entire NFL community, but we tried to use them as an opportunity to further unify our team and our organization.”
They claimed that they would send a “respectful” message during the game over the weekend: “Our players have the freedom to express themselves in a respectful and thoughtful manner and we all agreed that our sole message is to provide and to promote an environment that is focused on love and equality.”
At the game, some Bills players remained standing during the National Anthem while locking arms with each other. A dozen or so kneeled with players putting their hands on their shoulders. It’s not apparent if those kneeling was expected, considering the statement by the owners that the players would “express themselves in a respectful and thoughtful manner.”
According to an article on New York Upstate, the dozen or so Bills players who took a knee during the anthem were asked why they protested, and the reporters received varied responses.
It seemed that some were protesting racial and social injustice, much like Colin Kaepernick had done. Others felt they were showing unity and solidarity towards their teammates, while the majority were doing it to oppose President Trump.
Wide receiver for the Bills, Andre Holmes, said he felt they were doing it to show love and unity. “That’s what everyone wants, everyone to be united together and have love and equality for everybody. That’s what every team in the NFL wanted to portray, we don’t want people divided. That’s not good for us, not good for our country. That’s what we were going for.”
Yet their protest of the National Anthem seems to have frustrated many, causing a rift between players, fans, and in Nikischer’s case, employees of the NFL.
Nikischer said he understands why they are protesting, but feels it’s inappropriate to do so during the National Anthem: “During the National Anthem… the song that is about our country, our veterans that fight and die for us, it’s just something I feel you shouldn’t disrespect that way. I believe people have the right to protest; I just don’t believe that’s the proper venue for it.”
He later told reporters that he planned on never returning to the Bills’ stadium. “I will never step foot in the that [sic] place again, I will never watch an NFL football game again until this ends,” he declared.
It’s likely that many fans will similarly boycott the games and the NFL as a whole. Last year Breitbart reported that at least a fourth of those no longer watching the games cited the National Anthem protests as being the primary reason. That was just with Kaepernick protesting; now there are entire teams showing disrespect towards their country.
It will be interesting to see what happens to the NFL if these protests continue. While there may be support among players and from some of the fans, it’s likely there will be many who leave because they came to watch the game and found politics instead.