Ever since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel for the playing of the national anthem prior to football games, the NFL has found itself mired in controversy.
Some players have joined Kaepernick in his protests, saying he is rightly standing up against the injustice that African-Americans in the U.S. are supposedly victims of.
But not all of the league’s players are on board with the protests.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady told Esquire’s Luke O’Neil in September 2016 what his response is when the national anthem is played.
“I always choose to stand and reflect, at a moment like that, on the blessings that I’ve had. That’s how I choose to express how I feel toward the people that have sacrificed for us. I think we live in a wonderful country,” he said.
“It’s certainly not perfect,” Brady added. “I don’t think any country is perfect. It’s our responsibility to do the best we can do to change the things we don’t like. I think that’s part of social responsibility, and everybody is going to do that in their own way.”
Brady’s went public with that stance after two of his teammates raised their fists during the playing of the national anthem prior to a regular season game.
Since then, many other NFL players have joined in on the protests, often choosing to kneel during the anthem.
Prior to an August preseason game, several Cleveland Browns players decided to kneel during the anthem. In response, the local police union and Emergency Medical Services union refused to continue holding the American flag before the team’s games.
“I am not going to participate or work with management that allows their players to disrespect the flag and the national anthem,” said Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Steve Loomis.
Cleveland EMS Union chief Dan Nemeth added that he thinks players are setting a poor example to American youth, who generally look up to professional athletes.
Police and emergency services workers are not the only ones responding negatively to the NFL’s anthem controversy.
ESPN reported in July that fewer Americans are tuning into football, with the national anthem protests topping the list of reasons why.
“NFL game viewership on networks that broadcast games was down an average of 8 percent for the 2016 regular season versus the season before,” ESPN said.
Viewers also cited excessive advertisements, unsubscribing to cable and the NFL’s negative public image as reasons they watch less.