Donald Trump grins at Super Bowl party as NFL players all stand for national anthem

February 4, 2018

The President was a harsh critic of the pre-game gesture, hitting out at the protesting players and the league for allowing them to go unpunished

All eyes were on the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles during the Super Bowlnational anthem as fans waiting to see if players would take a knee in protest.

But every player remained on their feet, allowing the NFL's biggest day to unfold without the season's most polarising issue at centre stage.

The absence of protests before the game pleased many fans, who either saw the kneeling players as being disrespectful to the flag and the military, or were simply sick of the season-long rancor over the protests over racial injustice.

"I'm glad they stood for the anthem," said Kelly Erickson, an Eagles fan who traveled to Minneapolis from her hometown Philadelphia.

"It's not appropriate," she said, referring to the protests that began in 2016 with former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick and were joined by dozens of players around the league this season.

Pink belted out the national anthem (Image: AFP)

President Donald Trump , for one, was a harsh critic of the pre-game gesture, heaping scorn on the protesting players and the league for allowing them to go unpunished.

But others were disappointed that the Eagles and Patriots did not kneel during the Star Spangled Banner, performed by the singer Pink, as they were hoping to see the issue of police treatment of minorities pushed to the forefront on the most visible stage in American sports.

"All eyes are here," said Mel Reeves, a Minneapolis civil rights activist who organised a two-day "Take a Knee" conference that culminated in a protest rally Sunday outside US Bank Stadium. "When the players are doing it, people have to pay attention to the issue."

But the wave of protests started to fizzle late in the season when the NFL said it would donate $89 million over seven years to social justice causes as part of an effort to end the on-field demonstrations.

Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who has previously raised his fist above his head, was one of those who stopped his protests.

Trump met with cheerleaders before the Super Bowl kicked off (Image: REUTERS)

The President kept his gaze straight ahead (Image: AFP)

Still, Trump stirred the issue anew last week during his State of the Union address. As the season was getting underway, he said any player who protests is a "son of a bitch" who should be removed from the field, and criticised NFL owners for failing to take action.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has praised the protesters as concerned activists and said the league should work with them to address their concerns, which include the use of lethal force against minorities and racial disparities in the justice system.

Trump declined to be interviewed for the Super Bowl broadcast as some previous presidents have, NBC said.

Inside US Bank Stadium, some fans said they were relieved that politics did not intrude before the Super Bowl.

PHOTO : Trump watched the Super Bowl from a viewing party in Florida (Image: AFP)


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