MIDTOWN, New York— Civil rights groups and community leaders served up a message of defiance outside NFL headquarters in Midtown Friday.
The protestors lashed out against the league’s recent decision to fine teams if players refused to stand for the National Anthem.
Co-founder of the Women’s March, Tamika Mallory said with the new policy, the league drew a line in the sand.
“They are very clear in stating that our oppression is not for the American public’s eyes,” Mallory said.
“They will not provide for us a platform to talk about the abuse of our men and women,” she continued.
Since 2016, taking a knee during the anthem became a form of protest meant to highlight social injustices endured by the African American community.
The messaging, however, according to Minister Kirsten John Foy of the National Action Network, has been misconstrued and politicized by President Trump.
Foy lambasted Trump for his recent remarks where he suggested players who don’t stand "shouldn’t be in the country.”
“What he’s really saying is that you black folks can get back on the ship and go back to Africa, if you don’t want to stand up and salute the flag,” Foy said.
“We call on the NFL players to stand up,” activist Linda Sarsour said at Friday’s rally. “You do not want to look back decades later as elders and say damn I wish I would’ve stood up.”
Ever since the NFL rolled out its new National Anthem policy, the backlash has only escalated.
Not only is criticism coming from players but now from other leagues.
"It's just typical of the NFL,” Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said, delivering a scathing rebuke of the new rule.“
"Trying to use the anthem as fake patriotism, nationalism, scaring people. It's idiotic.”
One person who has yet to comment on the new policy is the player who started the conversation – Colin Kaepernick.
With so much pushback on the table, some say this is just the beginning of what will be a long public relations dilemma for the NFL.
The damage – if any – will be evident when the season kicks off in the Fall.
“We’ll know by then, from the PR sense - are people talking about football and games, or are we back on concussions or are we still talking about kneeling and racial injustice,” branding expert Ian Wishingrad told PIX11 News.