It was the silent protest heard ’round the world.
More than 200 NFL players chose not to stand during the national anthem ahead of Sunday’s football matchups, and South Mississippians had a lot to say about it, especially after several New Orleans Saints players took a knee before their game against the Carolina Panthers.
President Donald Trump demanded that players be fired or suspended for taking a knee during the national anthem, but several NFL teams and players defied him, including New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton. Payton said Trump’s comments were not wise and added that he was proud of the players who chose to kneel.
Hancock County Justice Court Judge Desmond Hoda posted on Facebook a photo of a wounded soldier and said, “He stood and fell so you can kneel! Stand up and respect those that refused to take a knee ... and died for you!”
The post drew more than 240 reactions, 256 shares and several comments.
Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes also shared his thoughts on the matter on Facebook. “You don’t believe in America?! Maybe you don’t belong in America,” he wrote at the top of his post.
Some South Mississippians shared a video from Rex Dukes, a self-proclaimed hunter, fisher and actor who burned his Saints Super Bowl championship shirt on Facebook Live and encouraged others to do the same.
“Burn anything u have that represents NFL,” Dukes said.
Some Coast residents supported players who they say were exercising their rights to peacefully protest. Many shared a statement from the Saints that said they supported inclusion and equality, and their players’ decision to kneel during the anthem.
People in New Orleans and on the Coast took to social media to announce their breakup with the Saints or the NFL. Some said they were giving up (or tossing) their Saints season tickets.
Others are calling for the NFL to fire everyone who took a knee.
There have also been several fake news posts circulating on Facebook about what is required at NFL games.
But there’s one man who is getting overwhelming praise for his stance on Trump and kneeling — Drew Brees.
During a post-game news conference, Brees criticized Trump for his words about the NFL, but also told the media that he did not agree with taking a knee as a sign of protest.
“Let me say this first. Do I think that there’s inequality in this country?” Brees said in a video published by Nola.com. “Yes, I do. Do I think that there’s racism? Yes, I do. I think there’s inequality for women in the workplace; I think there’s inequality for people of color, for minorities, for immigrants.
“But as it pertains to the national anthem, I will always feel that if you are an American, that the national anthem is the opportunity for us all to stand up together, to be unified and to show respect for our country. To show respect for what it stands for — the birth of our nation. There will always be issues with our country, there will always be things that we’re battling and we should always strive to make those things better.”
Brees’ comments went viral locally and nationally. Some people who pledged to give up the Saints decided to give them another chance after hearing what Brees had to say.
Sun Herald will be watching to see what NFL viewership looks like next week. There’s no way to know yet if those who pledged to break up with their favorite teams on social media will stay true to their word.