In the midst of devastating natural disasters and proposed health care legislation that could affect millions of Americans, President Trump spent his weekend criticizing NFL players and their protests during the national anthem.
His most notable statement came on Friday during a rally in Alabama where he said: “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. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’”
The president doubled down on his comments with a pair of tweets on Saturday morning.
His words have drawn criticism from athletes across the league and beyond — including from some former Terps.
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue was the only former Terp who kneeled, the protest form Colin Kaepernick started last season. Ngakoue can be seen in his No. 91 jersey at the end of this video alongside his fellow teammates.
Maryland football alum and Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith called the president “the most divisive person in this entire country.”
Former Maryland basketball guard Rasheed Sulaimon, who spent the 2015-16 season in College Park, posted a video Sunday on his Instagram of Muhammad Ali’s 1971 interview with Michael Parkinson where he shared his ideas on why other black athletes don’t express the same views as him.
Former Maryland basketball guard Dez Wells was a little bit more direct with his views.
Trump’s comments appeared to inspire players from several NFL teams to respond with demonstrations of their own during the anthem. Some, like Smith’s Philadelphia Eagles, locked arms to show unity. Others, like Sean Davis and Darrius Heyward-Bey’s Pittsburgh Steelers, remained in the locker room until the anthem was over.
Kneeling, or generally not standing, for the anthem is a designed protest meant to highlight the oppression people of color face in this country, a purpose Kaepernick outlined last year.
As of writing this post, Ngakoue has not commented on his choice to kneel during the anthem, so we don’t know for sure what his reasoning was. Maybe he was doing it in support of Kaepernick; maybe he wanted to show solidarity with his teammates; or maybe he just wanted to send a message to a man who used harsher words to describe protesting athletes than marching white supremacists and neo-Nazis.