That's according to a new Quinnipiac University poll which found that 67 percent of Americans believe in the right to protest in such a setting, which the NFL announced its intention to ban in May, though that ban was tabled in July. Just 47 percent, however, agreed that the players should, while 47 percent said they shouldn't.
NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who claims to have been blacklisted from the league, began protesting before football games in 2016 by taking a knee during the national anthem in an attempt to bring attention to racial injustice in the US and police killings of black people.
But in short order, the protest was portrayed as one which was disrespectful to people fighting in America's wars.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2017
"I think that a lot of people are just provincial about the flag. I think that there's a lot of American veterans, particularly older ones who served the country, who think that it's their right to defend patriotism in all its forms and levels, and I think that they raised it as an issue because they felt offended, because, you know, ‘You're disrespecting the flag,'" Bryan Weaver, founder and executive director of Hoops Sagrado, a DC-based youth leadership and development nonprofit that brings underprivileged children together through sports, told Sputnik News. "Same way as in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and there were arguments about whether protesters should burn the flag, whether there should be a criminal prosecution. Those are the same kind of people that came forward."
"Tactfully, I think a group of conservative politicians made the argument about that, and they've been very, very good about turning the message away from police brutality and issues around race and really trying to focus on this being disrespectful to troops. Of course, the irony is that, [as] anyone who has followed the protests [knows], the idea of taking a knee came from an American serviceman to Colin Kaepernick. He thought that Colin Kaepernick sitting on the bench was more disrespectful," Weaver said.
Weaver recounted the evolution of the protest, saying the servicemember told Kaepernick, "‘Well, you know I don't agree with it, but you know what we do in the field when something has happened, and what you guys do at the end of a game is you take a knee. Taking a knee on the football field is, you're trying to run out the clock or someone is wounded or injured, and that's the same thing we do in the field. It's an active thing.'"
Kaepernick adopted the tactic, and it "caught fire." In the beginning, "Once it caught fire, and you had players on multiple teams, and it really sort of developed into a schism, where it was all African American players [who] were taking knees," he added.
According to the poll, that schism has been reflected throughout America. While a majority of white voters disapprove of the protests — 53 percent — a much larger majority of black voters approve, 77 percent.
"I think that it made white fans of football — white fans of football, particularly those with a different political bent, like they don't like the politicization of it — they already sort of view [NFL players] as rich and entitled athletes, and once the patriotism thing started happening, it really changed what the protest was about. And I think it was really a tactic to change the message, and that's why I think it got far more heated than it probably would have been," Weaver said.
"I think it's a very polarized moment in American history."
"I think there is a disconnect between working class white people and working class African Americans," Weaver said. "Working class white Americans view it [as]: ‘We've had a hard time too; the economy has hit us hard, and we suffer just as much as you guys. You can't claim things that happened to your ancestors as being something that is affecting you now.' And if you're a 40-year-old African American, you're like, ‘My ancestors? You mean my mom,' or… if you're from Boston, ‘You mean me,' as far as integration in schools."