It was not lost on President Trump that Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch chose to continue to sit for the national anthem before the team’s game in Mexico, but stood when the Mexican anthem was played.
In an early-morning tweet Monday, the president resumed his criticism of the NFL and athletes who have protested social injustice and police brutality by remaining seated for the anthem, writing: “Marshawn Lynch of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders stands for the Mexican Anthem and sits down to boos for our national anthem. Great disrespect! Next time NFL should suspend him for remainder of season. Attendance and ratings way down.”
Lynch sat Sunday afternoon as he has done before every Raiders game this year, including in the preseason. But because the game was being played in Mexico City, that country’s anthem was also performed. Lynch’s decision to stand for it drew a great deal of social media attention. And it’s no surprise that the game would also draw the attention of the president because of Trump’s ties to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.
According to ESPN, Lynch was standing on the Raiders’ sideline when the U.S. anthem began, then took his customary seat “a few bars” into the song. The veteran running back, who prefers not to speak to the media, has yet to explain the reason behind his protests, but before a Week 4 game, he wore a shirt with the message, “Everybody vs. Trump.”
Lynch was out of the NFL last season when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began sitting, and then kneeling, during the anthem, inspiring other football players and athletes in different sports to stage their own protests. After parting ways with San Francisco in March, Kaepernick has yet to be signed, prompting him to file a grievance against team owners for colluding to keep him out of the league.
Lynch was one of a relative handful of NFL players staging protests at the start of this season, but more than 200 players took a knee in Week 3, with entire teams and owners linking arms, after Trump called for owners to fire any “son of a bitch” who doesn’t stand for the anthem. Playing in London that week, the Jaguars were among the squads that had some players kneel, but their team president subsequently apologized to Jacksonville-based military representatives after those players stood up during a rendition of “God Save the Queen.”
“It bears repeating that we were remiss in not fully comprehending the effect of the national anthem demonstration occurring on foreign soil has had on the men and women who have or continue to serve our country,” the team president, Mark Lamping, wrote in a letter to Jacksonville officials (via ESPN). “Similarly, we today can better appreciate how standing for God Save The Queen may have been viewed negatively by our armed forces here in Jacksonville and beyond.”
Since Week 3, NFL player protests during the anthem have dwindled but not vanished entirely. According to ESPN, players staging some form of demonstration in Week 11 included the Eagles’ Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, the Giants’ Olivier Vernon, the Chiefs’ Marcus Peters, the Rams’ Robert Quinn, the Titans’ Rishard Matthews and the Dolphins’ Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Julius Thomas. The Seahawks, who play Monday, are expected to have several players stage protests, including defensive end Michael Bennett.
Trump’s latest sports-related tweet came the day after he and LaVar Ball sparred over Trump’s efforts to free Ball’s son, UCLA basketball player LiAngelo, and two teammates from China after their arrest there on shoplifting charges. LaVar Ball had claimed that Trump didn’t do enough to help free the trio and the president tweeted that “I should have left them in jail!”
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