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Trump Said NFL Players Can't "Define" What They're Protesting. Actually, They Can And They Have.

The president resumed his fury against NFL players — also telling them to "be happy, be cool!" — after many protested during the national anthem at preseason games.

Posted on August 10, 2018, at 10:26 a.m. ET

Several NFL players protested against racial injustice during the national anthem at NFL preseason games Thursday night, prompting President Donald Trump to resume his fury against them on Twitter.

Miami Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn
Wilfredo Lee / AP

Miami Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn

Trump — who has previously called for the NFL to fire players who kneel during the national anthem — said that the players were outraged by "something that most of them are unable to define."

The NFL players are at it again - taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem. Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their “outrage” at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love......

But that is just not true.

Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

Since 2016, NFL players — starting with the San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick — have made it clear that they are protesting against racial inequality in the US.

Kaepernick kneels during the national anthem in 2016.
Ted S. Warren / AP

Kaepernick kneels during the national anthem in 2016.

In August 2016, Kaepernick spent more than 18 minutes explaining why he kneels during the national anthem.

"People don't realize what's really going on in this country," he said. "There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust. People aren't being held accountable for. And that's something that needs to change. That's something that this country stands for freedom, liberty and justice for all. And it's not happening for all right now."

He then specified that one of the reasons for his protest was police brutality against black people.

"There is police brutality," Kaepernick said. "People of color have been targeted by police. So that’s a large part of it and they’re government officials. They are put in place by the government. So that’s something that this country has to change."

The Philadelphia Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins — who raised his fist during Thursday's preseason game — has also been an outspoken advocate for racial equality and reforming the criminal justice system in the US.

Matt Rourke / AP

Jenkins has said in interviews that he protests during the national anthem to "continue the conversation about social injustice and keep that relevant in the minds of America."

More than ever we remain committed to advocacy 4 equality & social justice 4 all! @Eagles fans Join us in locking arms 4 unity in our city!

Jenkins had stopped protesting in 2017 after the NFL pledged $100 million to social justice organizations but resumed his protest this year after the NFL announced a policy mandating that players stand respectfully during the anthem or sit in the locker room.

"I think it’s important that we continue to keep this conversation going, that we don’t let it get stagnant," he told NBC Sports after protesting at a game in August.

The Miami Dolphins' Robert Quinn — who raised his fist during the national anthem at Thursday night's game — later told a reporter, "It is a free country and I’m just holding a fist up for unity."

Wilfredo Lee / AP

"This is about creating awareness," Quinn told the Sun Sentinel after the game. "I’ve been doing this for a long time now. … This isn’t a responsibility. It’s something I’m passionate about."

The Miami Dolphins' Kenny Stills — who has been protesting during the national anthem since 2016 and who took a knee during Thursday's game — says on his website: "We were not protesting the national anthem. We were actively working to create a conversation regarding police brutality and the race issues that plague this country."

Miami Dolphins Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson took a knee tonight during the national anthem to protest social injustices and racial inequality. Gotta admire the guts it took with Trump attacking this form of patriotic dissent and the NFL/most owners not supporting players. https://t.co/lR2XblwKYC

In the past, other players have also been vocal about their reasons for protesting.

Took a knee with my hand over my heart to respect the men & women of service, past & present. Also with the realities of America in mind. https://t.co/c4NqPUteO0

In 2017, the Seattle Seahawks said in a statement that they would not participate in the national anthem as a protest against "the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country."

On Friday, Trump told the protesting players — some of whom kneeled, raised fists, or waited in the locker room during the anthem on Thursday — to "Be happy, be cool!"

.....Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!

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