Local reaction to controversial NFL demonstrations mixed

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Several New England Patriots players kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Local reaction to what happened around the NFL Sunday is mixed. A number of NFL players locked arms during the national anthem as a show of unity, and many of them knelt as well.

The demonstrations were, in part, a response to President Donald Trump’s controversial comments Friday, when he suggested that players who protest the anthem should be fired.

While many players took a knee on Sunday, Nerissa Grandberry and her Packers fan club did the same.

“It is our First Amendment right to freedom of speech, and speech isn’t just what comes out of your mouth, it’s also body language,” Grandberry says.

She was shocked by the president’s comments.

“I cringed. I cringed because as a leader of this country, the highest office in the land, those words should not come out that mouth,” she says.

She supports players taking a knee to highlight what she calls unfair treatment of minorities by law enforcement.

“For me, the underlying thing is equal rights for all men. Under the Constitution, it states that no one is above anyone,” Grandberry says.

Of course, a lot of people, like the president, disagree with players taking a knee during the national anthem. Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland is one of them. He’s a big Bears fan but won’t watch them or any other team with players who kneel.

“I got a helmet that’s signed by the whole ’85 Bears team. I am an avid fan, but they have caused me not to watch them,” Roland says.

Local pastor Earle Fisher, with the Memphis Grassroots Organizations Coalition, agrees with players who kneel but takes issue with the fact that most of the Pittsburg Steelers stayed in the locker room during the anthem.

“We would hope that people would not put themselves in a position where somebody would have to interpret whether or not they are for just representation or whether they are against police brutality, so on and so forth,” Fisher says.

It’s a debate with several sides, and it’s one that’s unlikely to end anytime soon.