Locals react to recent NFL protests during the national anthem


TRI-CITIES - People across the country say they're boycotting the NFL as dozens of players continue to make statements by kneeling or sitting during the national anthem. However, television numbers suggest people are still watching.

Since President Donald Trump made comments suggesting owners fire players for protesting during the anthem, TV ratings have actually gone up. According to Nielson's rating service, TV viewership was up three percent in the weekend immediately after President Trump's comments compared to the same week the previous season. However, the league's ratings are still below the levels they reached during the 2015 season.

Bristol, Virginia's Debbie Sourbeer is a big football fan, but she says she's stopped watching since the protests began.

"Do not disrespect the flag and our military," Sourbeer says.

The protests began last season when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench while the national anthem was playing. When he was asked about it afterwards, Kaepernick said he was protesting police brutality and inequality.

Johnson City's John Baker has been outspoken about the issue since the protests began.

"They are protesting the idea of what the flag represents," Baker says. "It represents freedom and equality for all in America and they're saying no, that's not the case in America today."

NFL teams and players have echoed Kaepernick's message, but Sourbeer says the national anthem is not the time to protest.

"I do believe in freedom of speech but I think there's different ways to go about it then not standing for the anthem," Sourbeer says.

Baker disagrees, saying it's the biggest stage the players have.

"How else are they supposed to do this that brings this much attention and focus to the inequalities that are in our country?" he asks.

Sourbeer says she agrees that issues of police brutality and inequality are worth standing up for, but she says she wishes the players would express their frustration at another time instead of during the national anthem. She also suggests players go to Washington D.C. to talk to legislators about their concerns, or taking them to social media.

Baker applauds the players for taking a stand and coming together to address these issues.

"This shows unity," he says. "It shows the idea that we have open dialogue and hopefully moving forward we can correct the inequalities in a country."

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