Sports and Politics Mix as NFL Faces National Anthem Protest

Image Credit: Au Kirk - San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick attempts a pass in Super Bowl XLVII. Au Kirk (

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Sundays are seen as a relatively peaceful day, where families dedicate their day to family, religion, or the NFL.

However, controversy on whether professional athletes should kneel during the national anthem made headlines Sunday after comments by President Donald Trump created controversy on the field – and between state legislators here in Minnesota.

During a tweetstorm Saturday, Trump called on NFL players to stand for the national anthem.

“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect Our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!” Trump wrote Sunday.

The Indy Star reports Trump initially wrote, “Get that son of a b—- off the field right now, out, he’s fired.” That tweet has since been deleted.

In Minnesota, the response to whether athletes should kneel during the anthem fell along party lines when Minnesota State Reps. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) and Erin Maye Quade (D-Apple Valley) conversed on Twitter over the subject.

Image Credit: Screengrab Twitter

The conversation started when Garofalo commented on the controversy noting, “Ray Lewis killed a man and today, kneeled during the national anthem.” Maye Quade responded by agreeing with Garofalo on a single point. “Lewis sucks. See #BlackTwitter for more. Yet he did more for justice today than you – a sitting #mnleg rep – has done all year. Let that sink in.”

“Feel free to continue to focus on how people protest. I’ll continue to address *why* they’re protesting. I hope you join me,” Maye Quade responded after Garofalo tweeted, “You go ahead and sit during the national anthem. I will continue to stand. I’m confident more will stand with me than sit with you.”

Garofalo, who has since deleted his initial comment on Lewis told Alpha News the first amendment is a two-way street.

“Liberals seem to think that free speech is a one way street,” Garofalo said. “They praise athletes protesting the national anthem, but then whine when the vast majority of citizens rightfully criticize those protests. They can’t have it both ways.”

While several teams like the Dallas Cowboys kneeled on the sideline or others like the Pittsburgh Steelers chose not to appear on the field at all during the anthem, the Minnesota Vikings – including its owners – stood on the sidelines arms locked in support of the cause, but did not kneel during the anthem.

Shortly before the game started, the owners of the Vikings issued a statement in support of players rights to protest.

“Professional sports offer a platform unlike any other, a platform that can bring people from a variety of backgrounds together to impact positive change in our society,” the Wilf family said in a statement. “As owners, it is our job to foster an environment that recognizes and appreciates diversity of thought and encourages using this platform in a constructive manner. Rather than make divisive statements, we believe in promoting thoughtful, inspiring conversation that unifies our communities. We are proud of our players, coaches and staff for the important role they play in our community, and we fully support their constitutional right to respectfully and peacefully express their beliefs.”

As of Monday morning, CNN Money reports Alejandro Villanueva, who plays offensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers had the number one selling jersey amongst NFL players. While the Steelers chose not to take the field during the anthem, Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, stood on the field for the anthem – he has since apologized for making his teammates and coach look bad.

Rep. Erin Maye Quade did not respond to request for comment in time for publication.

Preya Samsundar

Preya Samsundar was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities this Spring with a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology, with a minor in Strategic Communications. Preya has previously worked on several State Campaign Races.