Donald Trump has revivified the silent protest begun last year by football player Colin Kaepernick, who began to kneel during the performance of the national anthem at the beginning of football games to draw attention to racially motivated violence and unrest in the country.
Saturday night, music legend Stevie Wonder told the crowd gathered in Central Park: "Tonight, I'm taking a knee for America ... but not just one knee — I'm taking both knees." Wonder's brief speech was met with deafening applause.
Trump began the national anthem argument on Friday, telling an Alabama audience Friday night during a stump speech, to enthusiastic applause, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now'?"
In 17 tweets or retweets since that remark, Trump has directed withering criticism at players and the NFL over players' participation in the kneeling protest, praised NASCAR, called for a boycott of the sports league and reprised his Apprentice catchphrase "you're fired" as a suggestion for team owners' response to players' participation. In doing so, Trump seems to have placed the bellows on an already divisive flame, igniting some strong words from musicians.
Trump made his remarks in parallel with two music events, the Global Citizen Festival — held in Central Park's Great Lawn to "spur music fans and change-makers alike to take action to help benefit the world's poor" — and A Concert For Charlottesville — a concert organized in response to the turmoil in that city last month. Both events drew high-profile artists to stages that were guaranteed to draw sizable attention. In reacting to Trump's comments, the protest begun by Kaepernick immediately reached a new high water-mark of visibility.