President Donald Trump ignited a firestorm of protest that exploded on social media over the weekend following his fiery remarks about former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who have peacefully protested against social injustice by taking a knee during the national anthem.
During a campaign rally in Alabama on Friday, the president called for the NFL to fire athletes who refused to stand while the anthem is being performed before football games. "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, 'Get that son of a b-h off the field right now, out, he's fired!" he said. Trump then doubled down on his disparaging comments in 17 different tweets over the weekend. He even went as far as to encourage fans to boycott the NFL. In turn, Twitter users on both sides of the debate tweeted about the controversy.
If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
According to social data intelligence company Talkwalker, the hashtag #TakeAKnee was mentioned 22,500 times while #TakeTheKnee received 6,800 mentions as of 7:15 p.m. ET on Sunday. Altogether, there were more than 4 million social posts related to the NFL and the national anthem over the weekend.
On Sunday, both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Baltimore Ravens became trending topics on Twitter after the two teams stood in solidarity with Kaepernick and knelt during the anthem. Each team received over 15,000 mentions as of 6 p.m. EDT on Sunday, reports Talkwalker. CNN political commentator Keith Boykin shared a video of the Jaguars and Ravens taking a knee received 4,100 likes and 2,000 Retweets. Meanwhile, the hashtag #NFL spiked by 377% and BoycottNFL had a jump of 256%.
Video: Ravens and Jaguars players take a knee during national anthem at NFL game in England. #TakeAKnee #TakeTheKnee pic.twitter.com/890K1i7WBz
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) September 24, 2017
According to Talkwalker, the top social post was a tweet from military widow Katie Hubbard in support of the NFL players' right to protest. It has received more than 350,000 likes and 87,000 retweets.
My husband died for your right to #TakeAKnee. He would have supported you; I support you. Sincerely, a military widow.
— Katie Hubbard (@Khubbard991) September 23, 2017
On the other hand, a tweet from actor James Woods criticizing NFL players also went viral with 16,000 likes and 7,800 retweets.
#Liberals applaud spoiled #NFL millionaires sitting on their asses during national anthem, while Berkeley cancels Free Speech Week... #irony
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) September 24, 2017