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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

NFL players taking a knee makes UAE fans stand up for race rights

UAE fans of NFL have condemned comments from President Donald Trump saying the players should be fired

Buffalo Bills players kneel in protest during the National Anthem before a game against the Denver Broncos at New Era Field. Timothy T Ludwig / USA Today
Buffalo Bills players kneel in protest during the National Anthem before a game against the Denver Broncos at New Era Field. Timothy T Ludwig / USA Today

Peaceful protest in America is well within citizens’ rights, but when National Football League players demonstrated against racism by taking a knee during the National Anthem ahead of a game this week, the US President called every one of them a “son of a b***h”, and UAE fans are furious.

Local American football fans described the President’s reaction to the silent protest as appalling. His comments led to more players taking part as an act of solidarity during Monday’s games – totalling to hundreds of professional players protesting.

Mr Trump followed up his profane comment on national TV on Sunday with a tweet saying the offending players “should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”

American fans in the UAE have heavily condemned his response.

“Frankly if anyone should be fired it should be him,” said Tony Robinson, an American football coach in the Emirates Football League.

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“In my work experiences in the United States if anyone used this type of language against an employee, they would be fired for discrimination.”

The American said he loved his country but also that the actions of the NFL players represent sentiments in the black community and his own.

Mr Robinson called the President’s reaction hypocritical and drew a comparison to Mr Trump’s lukewarm condemnation of the Neo-Nazi and Alt-Right protests that took place in Charlottesville and a killed a counter protester last month.

“On the one side, the players, demonstration is rooted in love and does not promote one race over another. On the other side, the Neo-Nazi’s, fight is rooted in a deep-seated hate that promotes one race over all others, and has plagued the America for far too long. Mr Trump has only heighted these racial tensions,” said the football coach.

Johnny Sharp II, a 43-year-old American fan living in the UAE, said both the protest and reaction drew attention to a deeper set of race issues in his country that he is disappointed still exist decades after its supposed abolishment.

NFL protests against police brutality began in 2016 after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (centre) sat during the anthem. Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports
NFL protests against police brutality began in 2016 after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (centre) sat during the anthem. Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

“The sad part is players kneeling was never about our flag or the anthem. The anthem was used as a vehicle to highlight the injustices that black people face in the US every day,” he said.

The father of four said he “had no words” for Mr Trump but that his actions were unbecoming of a president, especially as it is his job should be to protect the rights of all Americans - rights he feels his eldest son does not have.

He said the reason behind both black and white players kneeling during the anthem could not be understood by parents who have never to teach their children how to respond to police to police in the US when faced with racial profiling.

Before his eldest son returned to the US to attend university, Mr Sharp said he had to advise his son on how to act around police “Don’t talk loud to the officer, be sure to say ‘yes sir, or no sir.

“These are instructions to live as a black male in 2017 when dealing with police. These are instructions on how not to get killed in the US just because he might scare an officer because of his skin colour. And I’m sure to tell him I love him every time we speak,” he said.

An American Florida-Bar approved lawyer living in the UAE said the players were well within their rights to protest police brutality.

“The fact the most influential state actor and president is interfering with private organization’s ability to conduct as a free enterprise, and such interference at the expense of suppressing free speech is baffling and shows how incompetent he is as president,” he said.

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