Ryan Mayer

Reaction continues to pour in following the NFL’s announcement of their new league policy requiring all players and team personnel on the field for the national anthem to stand while it plays or face potential fines from the league and or their teams. Many current players have weighed in on social media and the president himself joined Fox & Friends this morning to laud the NFL for their new policy.

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Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe also weighed in, publishing an opinion piece for NBC News in which he calls the new policy “fundamentally un-American”. Instead, Kluwe argues, the NFL and its owners submitted to a bully in an attempt to win back or keep the fans who don’t want to hear about the protests.

“When the NFL owners, these builders of boondoggle stadiums siphoning public money away from our education and public infrastructure, finally had a chance to do the right thing — the American thing — they chose not to. They could have stood up to a bully, looked him square in the eye and said, No. The America you want — a nation of fear and hate and unchecked greed dragging all of us deeper into the muck every day — is not what we’re willing to embrace. The America we believe in is one where every citizen has a voice, no matter what their job, and political pressure cannot take that voice or job away. That is the America we stand for. That is the America we’ll let our players take a knee for. The owners had a chance to stand for the right to kneel. Instead, they decided to grovel in the hopes of making another buck.”

The question now is, what should players who want to continue to bring awareness to the social issues raised by this protest over the past several years do?

“We’re at a turning point in terms of players and protesting right now because what we have is a sitting U.S. president essentially demanding that players show fealty and obedience to a flag,” said Kluwe via phone on Thursday. “That’s what you find in third-world dictatorships. That’s not what America is supposed to be.”

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“I think the players, even though it is risky to continue doing so, and even though they will face fines and likely public anger, they should absolutely continue protesting. I would actually escalate it. This is a dangerous time in our history because this isn’t just about the NFL anymore. This is something that-if Trump thinks he can get away with this-it further enables him and further pushes him towards becoming a dictator.”

If players continue to protest, the team faces fines from the league and the club has the right to impose their own policies with regards to fines for protests. In addition, the choice to stay in the locker room or to come out for the anthem and still protest is one that has the potential to cause some divides in the locker room. For Kluwe, that potential divide is the same thing the country as a whole is going through.

“It’s going to be a microcosm of America itself,” said Kluwe. “Football players come from a wide variety of backgrounds, from all over the country and all different walks of life. Just as there are Trump supporters in the locker rooms, there are people who are very against Trump in the locker rooms.”

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“I think it’s going to be that guys who continue to protest will receive support from those who understand how important this is. They’ll probably get some nasty words or looks from those who don’t understand why this is important, but that’s just symbolic of our country as a whole. We all have to decide where we’re going to stand, or not stand, kneel on this.”