After President Donald Trump tweeted his support of NASCAR’s rules forcing drivers to stand for the National Anthem, Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted that he supports NFL players’ rights to protest by kneeling.
“All Americans R granted rights 2 peaceful protests,” the most recognizable driver in NASCAR tweeted. He then included a quote from President John F. Kennedy that reads, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
NASCAR later issued the following response on the issue:
“Sports are a unifying influence in our society, bringing people of differing backgrounds and beliefs together. Our respect for the national anthem has always been a hallmark of our pre-race events. Thanks to the sacrifices of many, we live in a country of unparalleled freedoms and countless liberties, including the right to peacefully express one’s opinion.”
On Sunday, USA Today reported that the majority of NASCAR team owners said they would fire drivers and employees who didn’t stand for the “Star-Spangled Banner.” There were also no protests at a NASCAR event in New Hampshire.
“Anybody that don’t stand up for that ought to be out of the country. Period,” Richard Petty told USA Today. “If they don’t appreciate where they’re at … what got them where they’re at? The United States.”
“Get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over,” owner Richard Childress said. “I told them anyone who works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people have gave their lives for it. This is America.”
However, Richard Petty Motorsports majority owner Andy Murstein told ESPN that he wouldn’t fire an employee for protesting.
“I would sit down with them and say it’s the wrong thing to do that, and many people, including myself, view it as an affront to our great country,” Murstein told ESPN. “If there is disenchantment towards the president or a few bad law enforcement officers, don’t have it cross over to all that is still good and right about our country.”
Trump tweeted that he was proud of NASCAR after reading these comments. “So proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans. They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag – they said it loud and clear,” the president tweeted at 7:25 a.m.. Less than an hour later, Earnhardt tweeted his support for NFL players.
Since Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the anthem to protest police brutality and the treatment of African Americans in the 2016 season, only a handful of NFL players kneeled during the anthem. But on Sunday, entire teams locked arms or didn’t even take the field during the anthem in response to Trump’s comments on Friday. In a rally in Alabama, Trump said NFL owners should fire any player who kneels, referring to them as a “son of a bitch.”
Although most players who kneeled were African American and the reason for their protests is the treatment of African Americans in the U.S., Trump insisted that race has nothing to do with it.
“Many people booed the players who kneeled yesterday (which was a small percentage of total). These are fans who demand respect for our Flag,” Trump tweeted Monday. “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”