Donald Trump has been accused of racism for waging a war of words against prominent black athletes who he says are disrespectful for making political protests.
The row began on Friday when Trump, at a senatorial campaign rally in Alabama, described any player who takes a knee during the National Anthem as a ‘son of a b****’.
It was in blatant reference to Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who, in response to a string of police killings of black men, took to one knee during the Star Spangled Banner at a pre-season game in 2016.
Trump’s comment, which also included calls for the athlete to be fired, were met with outrage from the sporting community but they did not stop his tangent.
On Saturday, he disinvited Golden State Warriors player Steph Curry from the White House – even though Curry had already rejected the invitation in protest himself – saying he ought to have been grateful to have ever been invited.
He has since called NFL boss Roger Goodell an ‘apologist’ for the athletes who he deems to be ‘disrespectful’.
Critics consider the row proof of a racist agenda within the administration.
Hundreds of thousands of people used the hashtag #TakeTheKnee as they tweeted out in criticism of the president and his comments this weekend.
Among those who voiced their concerns on Saturday was the DJ Diplo who said the president was going after ‘all black athletes with an opinion so we will only be left with NASCAR.’
His comments were echoed by prolific civil rights campaigner and journalist Shaun King who said the president was more merciful in his consideration of white supremacists than he was of the athletes singled out.
‘They can’t make their mind up which flag they are loyal to, but Trump has never called them sons of b****s from the mic,’ King said, sharing a photograph of crowds of neo-Nazis and the KKK.
Dominique Hamilton, a defensive tackle for the New York Giants, said: ‘Trump has to have his arm twisted to denounce white supremacist and nazis, but happily denounces to his supporters.’
Many were reminded of his comments in the wake of the alt-right protests in Charlottesville last month during which a counter protester was killed.
Trump was slammed in the aftermath for suggesting there had been violence on both sides instead of immediately condemning the violent, vitriolic chants of the neo-Nazis who had gathered.
Curry had already announced that he had no intention of going to the White House until action was taken to stop violence against black people, particularly at the hands of police men.
Trump, furious to have been snubbed, said on Saturday that the 29-year-old was ‘hesitating’ so he deserved to have his invitation rescinded.
‘Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!
‘If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem.
‘If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!’ he said on Saturday morning.
Later, he called on Roger Goodell to implore all athletes to stand when they take a knee on the field.
Goodell responded with a statement in which he accused Trump of disrespecting the league.
‘The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last months.
‘Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.
The row is now spreading across different sports and has stretched to the world of music entertainment.
On Saturday night, Stevie Wonder took a knee ‘for America’ in defiance of Trump’s order and Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland Athletics became the first big league baseball player to take a knee at a game on Saturday.
‘Don’t be surprised if you start seeing athletes kneeling in sports now,’ Maxwell said on Twitter earlier in the day.
LeBron James called the president a ‘bum’ and said he was attempting to use sports to ‘divide’ the nation.
Many questioned why Trump lashed out at Curry for not attending the congratulatory ceremony at the White House when he showed no such anger towards Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady after his Super Bowl win in February.
Brady chose not to join teammates to be congratulated by Trump – who considers him a friend – and later said his absence was due to family commitments.
Teammates said those commitments were to his mother Gaylynn who has been battling severe cancer for more than a year.
As the row rumbled on on Saturday, many sports fans with plans to attend Sunday NFL games vowed to take a knee once in the stands.
Others, who said they would be watching at home, would do the same.
Among Trumps’ critics were veterans who argued that his comments were unconstitutional and breached the First Amendment.