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NFL fans express their anger at the ‘politicization’ of the league as teams kneel for anthem

Fans of the NFL have been expressing their dismay at how the NFL has become ‘politicized’ in the wake of recent Black Lives Matter protests. 

Teams opening their seasons in empty stadiums on Sunday knelt, locked arms, raised fists in protest or stayed off the field entirely for the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ and the Black anthem ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ as the once-reluctant league brought racial injustice to the forefront on the NFL’s first full slate of games.

But the gesture has provoked strong feelings among a segment of fans who were already unhappy when players knelt for the national anthem which started when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee in 2016.

The issue has since been further aggravated after the NFL said they would add ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ before all the opening games of the 2020 season. 

The Los Angeles Chargers stand arm-in-arm before their game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Cincinnati

The Los Angeles Chargers stand arm-in-arm before their game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Cincinnati

Los Angeles Rams players on the sidelines during the National Anthem before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi

Los Angeles Rams players on the sidelines during the National Anthem before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi

The Cincinnati Bengals stand arm in arm as 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' is played before an NFL football game

The Cincinnati Bengals stand arm in arm as ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ is played before an NFL football game

The Los Angeles Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals stand on the field during the national anthem at the beginning of their game at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday

The Los Angeles Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals stand on the field during the national anthem at the beginning of their game at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday

There was a barrage of Tweets from supporters of the NFL who were not happy at political messages and 'social justice' actions crossing over into their football game

There was a barrage of Tweets from supporters of the NFL who were not happy at political messages and ‘social justice’ actions crossing over into their football game

‘I think the NFL is taking a big misstep in making their product not about the game of football and making it about the political agendas of some of its players,’ Green Bay Packers fan Andy Duffrin of Marinette, Wisconsin, said to the Green Bay Press Gazette. ‘The proof is in the pudding and the pudding they are about to serve up is not going to taste very good to a lot of loyal fans.’

In a recent poll by the Washington Post, 56% of Americans said they believed it to be appropriate for athletes to kneel during the national anthem with 42% saying it was inappropriate.

The Los Angeles Rams sideline during the national anthem before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium on Sunday

The Los Angeles Rams sideline during the national anthem before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium on Sunday

Chicago Bears players on the sideline during the national anthem against Detroit Lions during an NFL football game, Sunday

Chicago Bears players on the sideline during the national anthem against Detroit Lions during an NFL football game, Sunday

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) and teammates kneel during the National Anthem before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) and teammates kneel during the National Anthem before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday

Detroit Lions players on the sideline during the national anthem against Chicago Bears during an NFL game, Sunday

Detroit Lions players on the sideline during the national anthem against Chicago Bears during an NFL game, Sunday

But on Sunday, NFL fans on Twitter expressed their upset at what they had been witnessing in stadiums across the country. 

‘The NFL is done,’ one fan put simply.

Many were unhappy at the apparent crossover of politics and ‘social justice’ into the game. 

‘End racism is written at an NFL end zone. WTF  is the scenario where a racist sees that, and addresses his issues. That’s just the laziest, performative bulls***,’ stated one fan.

‘NFL is a total s***show with their crossing over into politics and ‘social justice’ nobody wants to see that s***! Roger Goodell and your ratings will soon prove that Exactly to be true, dumb***!’

One Denver Broncos fan posted video of himself setting fire to his Denver Broncos flag.

‘Loved watching my Broncos, but I love my country more. To HELL with the NFL and Players! GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS AND GOD BLESS AMERICA.’

One Denver Broncos fan decided to burn his team's flag

The moment was captured on video and posted to Twitter

One Denver Broncos fan decided to burn his team’s flag and captured the moment on video which he then posted to Twitter

The former Denver Bronco's fan concluded the video of him burning the team flag by holding up the stars and stripes

The former Denver Bronco’s fan concluded the video of him burning the team flag by holding up the stars and stripes

One Twitter user seemed to beg for the NFL and coverage of the games to keep politics out of sports

One Twitter user seemed to beg for the NFL and coverage of the games to keep politics out of sports

Some fans were not happy that players were standing for the 'black anthem' and yet kneeling for the National Anthem

Some fans were not happy that players were standing for the ‘black anthem’ and yet kneeling for the National Anthem

The Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Chargers linked arms and stood for a moment in a stand against racial inequality

The Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Chargers linked arms and stood for a moment in a stand against racial inequality

Baltimore Ravens players gather on the field before and NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday in Baltimore

Baltimore Ravens players gather on the field before and NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday in Baltimore

Members of Los Angeles Rams players stand and kneel during the National Anthem before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday

Members of Los Angeles Rams players stand and kneel during the National Anthem before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday 

Another user, Clay Travis from Nashville expressed his upset with the Baltimore Ravens.

‘The Ravens stood for the black national anthem. And then most of the team kneeled for the national anthem. That, my friends, is a REALLY bad look,’ he wrote.

‘I wouldn’t know, cuz I’m never watching nfl football again,’ chimed in another in response. 

A female fan from Arizona expressed similar sentiments. 

‘I love my country; I HATE the NFL,’ tweeted Victoria Martel.  

The NFL along with other professional sports leagues are in favor of bringing attention to the treatment of black people by law enforcement after George Floyd died at the hands of police in Minneapolis on May 25.  

A Baltimore Ravens' fan declared the team kneeling for the national anthem to be a 'bad look' while another responded how they were never going to watch the NFL again

A Baltimore Ravens’ fan declared the team kneeling for the national anthem to be a ‘bad look’ while another responded how they were never going to watch the NFL again

One female fan declared starkly how she loved her country but hated the NFL

One female fan declared starkly how she loved her country but hated the NFL

Members of the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles lock arms and form an oval on the field before the start of an NFL football game on Sunday in Landover, Maryland

Members of the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles lock arms and form an oval on the field before the start of an NFL football game on Sunday in Landover, Maryland

Carolina Panthers players react during the national Anthem at Bank of America Stadium, with some of the players raising their fists

Carolina Panthers players react during the national Anthem at Bank of America Stadium, with some of the players raising their fists

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee in 2016

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee in 2016

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL should have taken Kaepernick’s and other players’ protests more seriously from the start. 

The NFL has pledged $250 million to support social justice causes in addition to extra money to individual teams. The Packers pledged $500,000 and Murphy $250,000 to Wisconsin-based organizations. Many players also have foundations through which they support local and national causes. 

But Kaepernick’s tweet on Sunday suggested he was still skeptical that anything had changed in the league.

‘While the NFL runs propaganda about how they care about Black Life, they are still actively blackballing Eric Reid for fighting for the Black community. Eric set 2 franchise records last year, and is one of the best defensive players in the league.’

Reid was a former safety for the 49ers and Carolina Panthers.

He was the second player, behind Kaepernick, to participate in kneeling protests during performances of the national anthem before NFL games. 

Wayne Sargent of Campbellsport who runs a Green Bay Packers fan club says he believes the teams should stick to entertainment rather than political messages.

‘Lately, the teams and players have turned professional sports into an arena for social and political outcry,’ Sargent said. ‘Professional sports should not be used as a platform for expression, but for the enjoyment of their fans — those fans that support their teams and players. If this behavior keeps up, I truly believe the only fans in the stands may be made of cardboard.’

New England Patriots including head coach Bill Belichick, left, quarterback Cam (1) and defensive back Terrence Brooks (25) stand during the singing of 'Lift Every Voice and Sing'

New England Patriots including head coach Bill Belichick, left, quarterback Cam (1) and defensive back Terrence Brooks (25) stand during the singing of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’

One Kansas City Chiefs team attempted to explain the negative response from fans.

One Kansas City Chiefs team attempted to explain the negative response from fans.

Kaepernick appeared to be angered by the NFL pushing its social justice initiatives while his former teammate Eric Reid remained a free agent to start the season

Kaepernick appeared to be angered by the NFL pushing its social justice initiatives while his former teammate Eric Reid remained a free agent to start the season

New England Patriots stand during the singing of 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' by Alicia Keys, on the video screen, before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, in Foxborough, Massachusetts

New England Patriots stand during the singing of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ by Alicia Keys, on the video screen, before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, in Foxborough, Massachusetts 

Back online, NFL fan Luke Silver did not hold back: ‘NFL is a total s*** show with their crossing over into politics and ‘social justice’ nobody wants to see that s***. Roger Goodell and your ratings will soon prove that Exactly to be true, dumbass!’

Evan Gearing from Georgetown, Texas said that the current display made it hard for him to still support the NFL.

‘Makes it very hard for this lifelong football fan to go back to watching games. And I am someone who had a bucket list to see a game in every stadium. Been to at least 10 stadiums so far. Planned vacations around nfl. Not anymore, since 2017 haven’t watched a game.’  

Ken Zimmern from Texas tweeted his thoughts on the matter together with a pic of the entire Washington team kneeling at the side of the field.

‘NFL Players expressing hatred for their own country. Career suicide. Eventually this will end badly. And their income will be affected. #Disgrace #UnAmerican’. 

Baltimore Ravens take a moment of silence during pregame against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium

Baltimore Ravens take a moment of silence during pregame against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium

New England Patriots stand on the touchline before the start of their game on Sunday

New England Patriots stand on the touchline before the start of their game on Sunday 

One NFL fan declared themselves to be 'Done!' after being 'subjected' to kneeling players, fists in the air and the black National Anthem

One NFL fan declared themselves to be ‘Done!’ after being ‘subjected’ to kneeling players, fists in the air and the black National Anthem

Another fan told how they hadn't watched an NFL game for three years but had been a lifelong football fan until 2017

Another fan told how they hadn’t watched an NFL game for three years but had been a lifelong football fan until 2017

Chicago Bears Roquan Smith (58), Josh Woods (55), Joel Iyiegbuniwe (45) and James Vaughters (93) listen during the national anthem before their NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit

Chicago Bears Roquan Smith (58), Josh Woods (55), Joel Iyiegbuniwe (45) and James Vaughters (93) listen during the national anthem before their NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit

One Kansas City Chiefs fan attempted to explain the negative response from fans.

‘Football fans are not booing racial equality and justice. They are booing the far left, abolish the nuclear family and capitalism rhetoric that has been shoved down their throats for the past 5 months. We were already for unity. I’m proud of the KC fans.      

A self-declared Trump supporter tweeted how he believed NFL players were ‘overpaid losers’ using the hashtag BoycottNFL. 

‘Fire them all and let’s see what jobs they find to contribute to society vs. throwing a ball around and making millions for it… meanwhile not doing a DAMN thing besides kneeling during our great National Anthem,’ he wrote. 

‘I tried, against my better judgement, to watch the NFL today. I saw kneeling, fists in the air, players kneel in the middle of the field instead of defending a kickoff, and was subjected to the ‘Black National Anthem’. I’M DONE! #BoycottNFL’ wrote another. 

Cleveland Browns wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge (12) kneels before an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens

Cleveland Browns wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge (12) kneels before an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens

Members of the Carolina Panthers gesture during the Nation Anthem before their game against the Las Vegas Raiders in Charlotte, North Carolina

Members of the Carolina Panthers gesture during the Nation Anthem before their game against the Las Vegas Raiders in Charlotte, North Carolina

One man believed the NFL teams would see it 'end badly' suggesting it was 'career suicide' for those taking part

One man believed the NFL teams would see it ‘end badly’ suggesting it was ‘career suicide’ for those taking part

The anger was boiling over a tweet from a Trump supporter who suggested the players all be fired and 'contribute to society' another way

The anger was boiling over a tweet from a Trump supporter who suggested the players all be fired and ‘contribute to society’ another way

Players knelt in remembrance of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., during the first half of an NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday  in Atlanta

Players knelt in remembrance of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., during the first half of an NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday  in Atlanta

Out on the fields, Seattle’s Jason Myers kicked the ball through the end zone to open Seattle’s season at Atlanta. No one else on the field moved. Instead, the Seahawks and Falcons dropped to one knee where they had stood.

After years of pleading with their league to act against systemic racism, NFL players were prepared to wait another 10 seconds to make their point.

In Atlanta, the teams wore armbands honoring civil rights leader John Lewis and staged the most striking of the day’s gestures: They watched the opening kickoff sail through the end zone for a touchback, dropped to one knee, and remained there for about 10 seconds before trotting off the field to resume the game.

‘We’re taking this moment and making it a movement, not just as a race, a community or a team, but as a nation,’ Falcons defensive end Steven Means said in a statement issued by the team. ‘It’s time to stand up, rise up and vote.’

The Washington football team are pictured kneeling before their game in Landover, Maryland on Sunday

The Washington football team are pictured kneeling before their game in Landover, Maryland on Sunday 

New England Patriots stand during the singing of 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' before their game against the Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots stand during the singing of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ before their game against the Miami Dolphins

Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots stands with teammates as Alicia Keys performs "Lift Every Voice and Sing" by video stream before the game between the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts

Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots stands with teammates as Alicia Keys performs ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ by video stream before the game between the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts

Cleveland Browns players kneel before the play of the National Anthem during an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday

Cleveland Browns players kneel before the play of the National Anthem during an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday

Lewis, the Georgia Congressman who died in July, was named an honorary captain for the game. The Falcons also wore shirts with his quote: ‘The Vote is the most powerful, nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society.’

While fans were absent everywhere except Jacksonville because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Minnesota Vikings hosted the family of George Floyd, who died in May in a videotaped killing that sparked national protests over police brutality against black men.

Vikings players locked arms in the end zone about a half-hour before their game against Green Bay for ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ the song unofficially known as the Black national anthem that was played before each game in Week 1 as part of the NFL’s ‘social awakening’.

The Packers remained in their locker room for the two songs, following the lead of the Miami Dolphins, who said in a video last week that they would stay off the field for the national anthem rather than participate in ’empty gestures.’ 

Cleveland Browns wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge (12) kneels during the National Anthem, before an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens. The hazy conditions were caused by pre-game fireworks

Cleveland Browns wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge (12) kneels during the National Anthem, before an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens. The hazy conditions were caused by pre-game fireworks

Members of the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles form an oval on the field before the start of their game

Members of the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles form an oval on the field before the start of their game

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) and Seattle Seahawks tight end Greg Olsen (88) pray with Atlanta Falcons long snapper Josh Harris (47) and Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley (21) in Atlanta

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) and Seattle Seahawks tight end Greg Olsen (88) pray with Atlanta Falcons long snapper Josh Harris (47) and Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley (21) in Atlanta

The Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets also remained in their locker rooms for the pregame ceremonies.

‘We don’t need another publicity parade. So we’ll just stay inside until it’s time to play the game,’ Miami players said in the video. ‘This attempt to unify only creates more divide. So we will skip the song and dance and as a team we’ll stay inside.’

Other teams lined up on their sideline or along the goal line and locked arms. 

A few dozen players – as well as Indianapolis coach Frank Reich – knelt during the anthem, a silent echo of the 2016 Kaepernick protest.

Several teams made a point of stressing on Sunday that their protest was not unpatriotic – a point Kaepernick also made, but which was often drowned out by those – including President Donald Trump – latching onto the issue.

‘To be clear – we were not protesting the flag, the anthem, or the men and women who wear the uniform,’ the Colts said in a statement. ‘The timing of this action is meant to highlight that the presence, power and oppression of racism remains inconsistent with the unity and freedoms of what it means to be an American.’

A Black Lives Matter sign is displayed at Baltimore Ravens against Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium

A Black Lives Matter sign is displayed at Baltimore Ravens against Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium

Members of the Las Vegas Raiders stand during the National Anthem before an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday

Members of the Las Vegas Raiders stand during the National Anthem before an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday

Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Patriots owner Robert Kraft joined their teams as they lined up on the goal line when ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ was played before their games. Quarterback Cam Newton, who was making his New England debut against Miami, appeared to be singing along.

The Dolphins remained in their locker room, as they promised in their 2-minute, 15-second video featuring nearly 20 players trading pointed rhymes about the nation’s social protest movement.

When the anthem began in Detroit, a slew of Lions walked off the field and headed toward their locker room; some remained on the field and knelt. On the other sideline, several Bears players took a knee while about 20 of their teammates waited for the anthem to end before jogging onto the field. 

The NFL had been at the center of social justice protests in American sports ever since Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to call attention to the systematic oppression of Black people in the U.S. 

Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey, far right, kneels next to teammates during a song honoring racial justice prior to an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday

Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey, far right, kneels next to teammates during a song honoring racial justice prior to an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday

Quarterback Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals, teammates and the Los Angeles Chargers stand in unity during the U.S. National Anthem at Paul Brown Stadium

Quarterback Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals, teammates and the Los Angeles Chargers stand in unity during the U.S. National Anthem at Paul Brown Stadium

Ronnie Harrison #33 and KhaDarel Hodge #12 of the Cleveland Browns kneel during the National Anthem prior to playing against the Baltimore Raven on Sunday

Ronnie Harrison #33 and KhaDarel Hodge #12 of the Cleveland Browns kneel during the National Anthem prior to playing against the Baltimore Raven on Sunday

Head Coach Frank Reich of the Indianapolis Colts takes a knee during the National Anthem with his team before the start of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on Sunday

Head Coach Frank Reich of the Indianapolis Colts takes a knee during the National Anthem with his team before the start of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on Sunday

Kaepernick, who led San Francisco to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC title game the next year, was unable to get a job in the league in 2017 – or since.

But the football league was in its offseason when Breonna Taylor was shot in her own apartment by Louisville police in March; when a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes in May, killing him; when Jacob Blake was shot and paralyzed by Kenosha, Wisconsin, police in August; and when protests over those and other acts of violence against black Americans erupted across the nation.

Goodell posted a video in June conceding that the league had been late in acknowledging the problem. Since then, the league has taken largely symbolic steps like allowing racial justice messages in end zones and on helmets and T-shirts.

Some team owners have pledged money toward social justice causes or offered their stadiums as polling places for the November election.

Baltimore Ravens players gather on the field before and NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Baltimore

Baltimore Ravens players gather on the field before and NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Baltimore

Dwayne Haskins #7 of the Washington Football Team takes a knee before the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField on September 13 in Landover, Maryland

Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey (44) kneels during a song in honor of Black Lives Matter, before and NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Baltimore, Maryland

Dwayne Haskins #7 of the Washington Football Team takes a knee before the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField on September 13 in Landover, Maryland, left while right, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey (44) kneels during a song in honor of Black Lives Matter, before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Baltimore

Seattle Seahawks strong safety Jamal Adams (33) participates in the national anthem before the first half of an NFL game, raising his fist

Jimmy Graham #80 of the Chicago Bears raises his fist during the national anthem before the start of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, Sunday

Left: Seattle Seahawks strong safety Jamal Adams (33) participates in the national anthem before the first half of an NFL game, raising his fist. Right: Jimmy Graham #80 of the Chicago Bears raises his fist during the national anthem before the start of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Sunday

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