The week before President Trump decided to make NFL player protests a federal issue (so to speak), there were players on seven teams who participated in some sort of display during the national anthem.
Defining “participated” is tricky; do we count the 10 players on the San Francisco 49ers who, according to ESPN’s reporting, supported Eric Reid’s protest by putting their hands on his shoulders? If we do — and, in our analysis below, we did — it gives us 24 players during the second week of the National Football League season. The week prior, it was about the same.
Then Trump criticized the protests during a speech in Alabama, following it up with a slew of tweets complaining about them.
The next weekend, during NFL Week 3, the NFL protests soared. You can see it on the chart below. Nearly every team had either individual players protesting or some sort of team action (linking arms or kneeling) for example. (The size of the darker-colored player circles correlates to the number of players participating.) In some cases, those team demonstrations or new individual player protests have been continued since.
We’ve also labeled Vice President Pence’s appearance at and early departure from the Week 5 game between the Indianapolis Colts and the 49ers. No team has had as many players involved in protests this year as the Niners, reinforcing the idea that Pence knew exactly what he was getting into when he went there in the first place.
While no week saw quite the same amount of activity as Week 3, the number of team demonstrations and player protests has remained fairly consistent over the past three weekends. (All of these figures come from ESPN reporting, by the way; links to those reports are at the bottom of this article.)
Trump’s tweets have followed a similar pattern. A big surge in Week 3 and fewer since. The most recent was Monday.
Fake news: It was three dozen.