A timeline of the NFL protests from Colin Kaepernick's to now
Every NFL game on Sunday featured a demonstration of some kind against Donald Trump.
The US president has been vocal about American football players protesting during the national anthem ever since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee in 2016.
The 29-year-old begun kneeling during the anthem to protest against racial injustice and police brutality, with a number of other players joining him throughout the season.
Here’s a look at how the demonstrations have progressed.
August 14: Kaepernick’s first protest.
Since 2009 players have been on the field during the national anthem, and are generally encouraged, but not required, to stand during it.
Kaepernick doesn’t start in the 49ers’ first game of pre-season, and sits on the bench during the national anthem both then and in their next game – but goes unnoticed both times.
August 26: Kap’s protest is noticed for the first time as he makes his pre-season debut.
August 27: A day later the player explained why he was protesting.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour,” Kaepernick told NFL Network’s Steve Wyche. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
The 49ers said: “We recognise the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”
August 29: Donald Trump weighs in for first time after Kaepernick calls the then-presidential candidate “openly racist” while explaining his protest.
“I think it’s personally not a good thing. I think it’s a terrible thing,” Trump said. “And, you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try. It won’t happen.”
September 1: Kaepernick pledges the first $1 million of his salary to community organisations.
At a press conference he said: “I’ve been very blessed to be in this position and make the kind of money I do, and I have to help these people. I have to help these communities. It’s not right that they’re not put in the position to succeed, or given the opportunities to succeed.”
September 5: President Barack Obama weighs in for the first time.
Obama said that the protests were tough to see “for our men and women in uniform and those who fought for us… but I don’t doubt his sincerity. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about”.
He added that he’d rather young people were engaged than “sitting on the sidelines”.
September 7: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks for the first time.
“Well my personal thoughts are… I support our players when they want to see change in society, and we don’t live in a perfect society. We live in an imperfect society. On the other hand, we believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL. I personally believe very strongly in that.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (Andrew Matthews/PA)
September 22: Kap admits to receiving death threats.
October 10: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked about the protest, and her answer “disappointed” Kaepernick.
“Would I arrest them for doing it? No,” Ginsburg said. “I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning.”
“It is disappointing to hear a Supreme Court justice call a protest against injustices and oppression ‘stupid, dumb’ in reference to players doing that,” Kaepernick said the next day.
“Barely aware of the incident or its purpose, my comments were inappropriately dismissive and harsh,” Ginsburg said a few days later. “I should have declined to respond.”
December 18: NFL analyst Chris Simms predicts Kap won’t find a team in the new season.
“If you made me bet, I’d say he’s not in the NFL next year because the NFL is the ultimate right wing, Republican league there is,” Simms said. “And I’m shocked about all the hate I hear towards him from NFL coaches around the league.”
December 30: Kaepernick’s teammates vote to give him the Len Eshmont Award.
The award goes to the player who “best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 49ers team.”
March 3: Kap opts out of his 49ers contract, with new general manager John Lynch insisting they would’ve cut him regardless.
March 24: First talk of Kap being blackballed comes from Seahawks’ Richard Sherman.
Kaepernick is still without a team, with suggestions that owners and general managers are avoiding signing him because of his political stance.
“I’m sure he is,” Sherman said after asking if he was being blackballed by the league. “It’s difficult to see, because he’s played at such a high level, and you see guys, quarterbacks, who have never played at a high level being signed by teams. So it’s difficult to understand… it has nothing to do with football.”
March 28: Commissioner Goodell refutes blackballing claims.
Speculation continues for the duration of the off-season, with numerous players stating that they believe Kap is being blocked from joining a team – while well connected ESPN reporter Adam Schefter said owners have stopped managers from signing the player.
The Seahawks are the only team to bring Kap in for a face-to-face interview but decide not to sign him.
August 12: Marshawn Lynch sits for the anthem during preseason, on his first game back post-retirement.
The Raiders running back previously said of Kaepernick’s protest during an appearance on Conan: “So my take on it is… it got to start somewhere and if that was the starting point I just hope people open up their eyes to see that it’s really a problem going on and something needs to be done for it to stop. And I mean if you’re really not racist, then you won’t see what he’s doing as a threat to America but just addressing a problem that we have.”
August 13: Michael Bennett sits for the anthem, stating events in Charlottesville as one of his main reasons.
The Seahawks said he plans to sit for the rest of the season and hopes it encourages bridge building.
“Of course I’m going to face backlash. This is bigger than me. This is bigger than football,” he said.
“This is about people. This is about bringing opportunities to people, giving people equality. This is bigger than a sport.”
September 22: Trump tells a rally in Alabama that a refusal to sing the national anthem is a “disrespect of our heritage”.
“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 said.
September 23: NFL commissioner Goodall responds, while Trump continues to share his thoughts on the NFL.
“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities,” commissioner Goodall said in response to Trump’s comments.
Trump later took to Twitter to single out Steph Curry, a black athlete from another sport entirely, before once again calling for NFL players who “disrespect our great American flag” to be fired.
The Golden State Warriors, basketball’s champion team, were considering turning down the traditional invitation to celebrate their NBA title success at the White House.
Curry, their point guard and two-time winner of the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award, said the team could “inspire some change” by not going to see Trump.
“I don’t want to go,” Curry said on Friday, adding that it would show the players “don’t stand for… the things that he’s said, and the things that he hasn’t said in the right times”.
Trump then rescinded the offer on Twitter, which led to a very viral tweet from arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, LeBron James.
Later on in the day the president continued to tweet about sports, calling for a boycott of the NFL and for players to be sacked.
September 24: NFL players across the country respond to Trump’s comments by either taking a knee, linking arms, or staying in the changing room during the national anthem.
The Seattle Seahawks, Tennesse Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers all opted to stay in their locker rooms while the anthem played – and every game across the league featured some form of demonstration.
The entire Oakland Raiders offensive line – the only line in the NFL made up entirely of African-American players – was joined by pretty much the rest of the team in kneeling or sitting ahead of their game against the Redskins. The Washington team linked arms, while some knelt.
Fans at FedEx Field, home of the Redskins, booed the display.
The Dolphins team locking arms included their owner, Stephen Ross, who was one of the few NFL owners supportive of Kap’s protests last season.
Meanwhile, in the Atlanta Falcons v Detroit Lions game the actual person singing the anthem took a knee and raised his fist.
At Wembley Stadium the Jacksonville Jaguars faced the Baltimore Ravens, and more than 20 players on both sides either knelt or linked arms. They both stood when God Save The Queen played.
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said: “We recognise our players’ influence. We respect their demonstration and support them 100%. All voices need to be heard. That’s democracy in its highest form.”
Back in the States Odell Beckham Jr raised a fist after scoring a touchdown.
After the protest had started Trump began tweeting again, saying he approved of the arm linking but not the players kneeling.
The president also retweeted people calling for a boycott of the NFL, as well as calling for a change in policy for those who kneel.
Sunday also saw the first time a baseball player took a knee during the national anthem.
September 25: Trump continued to reference the NFL.
That was the president’s 17th tweet about sports in just a few days.