Trump cancels Super Bowl celebration over knee protest feud, so man kneels on White House lawn during national anthem

Philadelphia Eagles players boycotted event to celebrate Super Bowl win 

Tom Embury-Dennis
Wednesday 06 June 2018 12:59 BST
Man takes the knee during national anthem at White House

With Donald Trump standing nearby, a man knelt on the White House lawn as the US national anthem played, in an apparent protest against the president's feud with NFL players doing the same thing at the start of games.

Mr Trump has long railed against players who kneel during the anthem to protest against racial injustice, insisting on the need for Americans to stand up for the anthem to honour men and women who have died in the military.

"We stand to show our love for our fellow citizens and our magnificent Constitution," he said, before the NFL banned the practice last month.

After a number of Philadelphia Eagles said they would boycott a White House event in honour of the Super Bowl champions, the president held a “Celebration of America” ceremony at the White House instead.

But in an apparent show of solidarity with many black US athletes, the unidentified man was filmed taking a knee during a rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” as Mr Trump stood on stage with his hand on his heart.

The 16-second video showed the man kneeling, before standing up and applauding as the anthem comes to an end.

Many of what appeared to be an almost exclusively white audience waved miniature American flags during the song.

However, another man was also pictured kneeling behind a cordon on the South Lawn as guests behind him stood and held their hands to their hearts.

A crowd gathered nearby also shouted at Mr Trump, telling him to “stop hiding behind the armed services and the national anthem”. Others jeered the US leader and told him to “go away”.

The event was also notable for Mr Trump’s apparent forgetfulness regarding the lyrics to “God Bless America”.

During a rendition of the song, he stopped singing and nodded along to the beat instead.

After Mr Trump’s cancelled the Super Bowl event, basketball players LeBron James, of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry, of the Golden State Warriors, said they had agreed that whichever team wins the NBA championship would boycott the traditional visit to the White House.

Trump appears to forget the lyrics to 'God Bless America'

Tensions remain high around the NFL protests that began in 2016 when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began silently kneeling on the sidelines while the anthem played.

He said his protest was an effort to raise awareness around systemic racism and, specifically, the killing of black men by police.

He was soon joined by teammate Eric Reid. Both players have filed grievances against the NFL and have not been signed by any team since their contracts with the 49ers expired.

Last season, vice president Mike Pence left a 49ers game against the Indianapolis Colts after about a dozen San Francisco players took a knee during the anthem.

Mr Pence, who left before kick-off, tweeted shortly afterwards.

"I left today's Colts game because [Mr Trump] and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem," he wrote.

Mr Trump has repeatedly decried the players' protest, referring to them as "sons of bitches" who should be fired at a rally for supporters in Alabama last year.

Last month, the NFL announced a new policy - praised on Twitter by both Mr Trump and Mr Pence - requiring players to stand for the anthem if they're on the field before a game.

After the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2017, several players declined to attend the White House ceremony honouring their team last August, citing their differences with the president.

In February, the Golden State Warriors declined to attend the White House ceremony honouring their 2017 NBA Championship. Instead, they used their trip to Washington to visit the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

During an interview after the new NFL policy was announced, Mr Trump praised the league for doing "the right thing".

"You have to stand proudly for the national anthem," he said. Or "you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe they shouldn't be in the country”.

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