Hundreds of National Football League (NFL) players have been kneeling in protest during the national anthem, and the nation has taken notice.
But at least one man remains focused on the job at hand of protecting the nation and bolstering its service members.
When asked by reporters this week what his thoughts were about the NFL, given recent events, this was Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ response: “I’m the secretary of defense. We defend the country,” he said, according to multiple reports.
The kneeling during the national anthem in protest began last year, when football player Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest what he believes to be problems in America, namely police brutality and black inequality. Kaepernick was not signed by an NFL team this year.
The protests took on a renewed vigor this weekend after President Donald Trump on Friday called on players to stand and show respect to the anthem and flag. Trump referred to a player who kneels as “a son of a b–ch,” and said they should be fired. Many players kneeled during the national anthem during football games on Sunday.
Trump has since said that the NFL should implement a rule against players kneeling during the country’s anthem.
The NFL Player’s Association executive director, DeMaurice Smith, has said the union will “not back down” and continue to defend the constitutional rights of players.
And Roger Goodell, commissioner of the League, has said the President’s comments “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.”