NFL players who protest became President Donald Trump's latest target on Friday, when he hyped a crowd at a Huntsville, Alabama, rally with word of what action he would take against any player who dared kneel during the national anthem. Soon after, Twitter users returned Trump's NFL critiques with the hashtag #TakeAKnee.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b*tch off the field right now," Trump said on Friday. "Out. He's fired. He's fired."
The president went on to tout his friendships with NFL teams' owners, adding that if any of them fired a player for taking a knee "they'll be the most popular person for a week, they'll be the most popular person in this country." At least in Trump's estimation. He continued, "That's a total disrespect of our heritage, that's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for." Donald Trump Jr. cheered his father on via Twitter Friday night, quoting him in a tweet, adding, "Love this."
Those who didn't exactly "love" the president's harsh disavowal of peaceful protest showed solidarity with players like former 49ers' quarterback Colin Kaepernick — who was the first NFL player to refuse to stand for the anthem in protest of racism in America in 2016 — with the hashtag #TakeAKnee.
1. Showing Solidarity With Kaepernick
For many Twitter users, the choice was an easy one: They supported Kaepernick and his fellow protesters over Trump.
2. Calling Out White Privilege
Others thought Trump's criticism toward peaceful protesters was a classic example of white privilege.
3. Pointing Out Trump's Tolerance of White Supremacy
Some used the hashtag as an opportunity to point out how revealing it is that Trump was willing to dole out such harsh criticism against someone like Kaepernick while insisting some of Charlottesville's neo-Nazi protesters were likely "very fine people."
4. Slamming Trump
While Trump insisted protesters were unpatriotic, others insisted it's the president himself who has flouted basic American values.
5. Looking Ahead
Twitter users encouraged players at Sunday's games to continue protests.
6. Calling Attention to Hypocrisy
One Twitter user pointed out that many of the same Trump supporters concerned with disrespecting the American flag still hold the Confederate flag dear.
7. Emphasizing the meaning behind the protests
Twitters users responded to critics who said the protests disrespected United States troops and the American flag.
8. Renouncing Racism
Supporting Kaepernick means supporting the fight against systematic racism for many Twitter users.
9. Supporting Different Expressions of Patriotism
Others pointed out that there are different ways to "respect" the American flag. Taking a knee in protest of inequality can be one of them.
10. Making America Great
One Twitter user pointed out the hypocrisy of Trump's emphasizing his love of freedom in America while simultaneously criticizing anyone who takes advantage of those freedoms in a way he doesn't like.
11. Women's March Organizers Speak Out
The organizers behind January's Women's March, the Women's Strike and more spoke out in support of the hashtag.
12. Exploring the True Meaning of Patriotism
Twitter users sounded off on what patriotism means to them.
13. Calling For a Boycott of the NFL
April Reign, the creator of the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, called for a boycott of the NFL, asking Twitter users to stop watching NFL games in protest of the league's treatment of players like Kaepernick.
Trump also called for a boycott of the NFL, though for exactly the opposite reason. The president ended his tirade against protesting NFL players on Friday by slamming the NFL television ratings and encouraging spectators at NFL games that see players take a knee to simply walk out.
"They want to hit, but it is hurting the game, but you know what's hurting the game more than that?" Trump asked the crowd after insisting football's gone soft. "When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they're playing our great national anthem."
The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it's one player, leave the stadium, I guarantee you things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave.
But dozens of NFL players — along with other professional and non-professional athletes — don't seem to be backing down from their protests any time soon, emboldened by Kaepernick's original message. "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kapernick said in August 2016 after he took a knee at a 49ers' preseason game during the national anthem. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."