Fox News covered Sunday’s NFL player protests by sending a white host to talk to an almost entirely white group of NFL fans outside MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
A segment of Pete Hegseth’s conversations with fans aired on Monday morning’s Fox & Friends. At no point during it does Hegseth acknowledge why Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee during the national anthem last year — to protest police brutality against people of color.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said in August of last year. “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.”
Instead, Hegseth frames the protests as protests of patriotism in general and President Trump in particular.
“If you walk into this stadium today and a good number of Jet players decide to take a knee and protest the national anthem, how would you feel about that?” he asked one fan.
“Do you support what President Trump said when he said, ‘Hey, you know, if these guys want to kneel for the anthem, then the owners should be firing these guys?'” Hegseth asked another.
“They’re getting paid to do a job, and that’s their job — is to play ball, and do whatever the fans want them to do,” a fan told him.
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) September 25, 2017
Hegseth talked to a total of 10 fans. Only one of them was black, and that woman said that “if [players] want to express themselves in that way, I think they have the right to.”
During Fox & Friends’ introduction to the segment, Hegseth made his own feelings clear regarding Trump’s comments on Friday about how he’d “love to see” an NFL owner tell a player who protests during the national anthem, “‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!'”
“This is why I love what President Trump said,” Hegseth said. “I don’t care if he used a bad word or not. He’s speaking for a lot of Americans that say, ‘Stand up, you play a game for a living, get up and salute the flag.'”
As NFL games were being played on Sunday afternoon, Trump went as far as to conflate the patriotism that standing at attention during the national anthem purportedly represents with his campaign slogan.
Courageous Patriots have fought and died for our great American Flag — we MUST honor and respect it! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
Then, Monday morning, Trump claimed that “[t]he issue of kneeing has nothing to do with race.”
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 25, 2017
But as Kaepernick’s comments from August of last year reveal, NFL players’ protests of the national anthem was about racial injustice from the very beginning.