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New England Patriots players protest during the national anthem on Sunday.

September 26, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Patriotic, Trump-supporting Americans are escalating their campaign and rhetoric against the National Football League after players and owners defied President Donald Trump’s harsh criticism of players who kneel rather than stand in reverence during the pregame singing of the National Anthem on game day.

“Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a [b—h] off the field right now, out, he's fired. He's fired,'” Trump said Friday during a winding, off-the-cuff speech in Huntsville, Alabama, in support of Republican Senate candidate Sen. Luther Strange.

In response, dozens of NFL players took a knee Sunday or locked arms in unison standing to protest Trump’s remarks. Some coaches and even owners linked arms with players as well. In one NFL game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars played in London, a total of about two dozen American football players from both teams went down on one knee during the singing of the U.S. anthem but then stood for the British national anthem.

Trump shot back in a tweet: “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!” the president said in a Sunday morning tweet.” He has not relinquished his verbal assault on the anti-patriotic protests but instead is using his Twitter feed (with 49.2 million followers) to call for a boycott of the NFL and make the case that the kneeling protests insult our military.

Probably the most talked about player who defied the kneel-down protest was Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, who stood alone outside with hand on heart during the singing of the national anthem Sunday, as the rest of his team huddled inside the tunnel leading into the field.

It turns out Villanueva was an accidental “hero” who did not mean to stand out from his team and later apologized for throwing his teammates “under the bus.” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger issued his own postgame statement saying the team’s decision to remain in the tunnel “was not a protest of the flag or the Anthem. I personally don’t believe the Anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest.”

Lots of Americans resent NFL protests

The spectacle of million-dollar-salaried professional athletes disrespecting America by kneeling for The Star-Spangled Banner has millions of Americans — and much of Trump’s political base — seething, or at least resentful and yearning for the days when sports was above politics. Meanwhile, TV viewership of NFL games continues to decrease, as calls for a boycott of the league grow.

Rather than stay above the fray as a typical president would, Trump is leading the charge against the  protests as his latest salvo against perceived anti-Americanism. It’s red meat for his supporters, who voted for him precisely because they share his loathing of political correctness. But critics of Trump, including those on the Right, are charging him with attempting to squelch Americans’ First Amendment right to dissent, even from patriotic celebrations.

The kneel-down protest was started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 in sympathy with “Black Lives Matters” protests against allegedly racist police. Kaepernick was not signed by an NFL franchise this year, but his “take a knee” campaign has spread across the country, even to high school sports.

Various memes against the NFL have appeared on Twitter, including the hashtag “#NotForLong” redefining the NFL’s acronym.

NFL ratings way down

The Hollywood insider's publication “Deadline Hollywood” reports on the NFL’s declining viewership:

“In metered market numbers, the primetime matchup that saw the Washington Redskins beat the Oakland Raiders 27-10  snared an 11.6/20, the worst SNF has performed this season so far. It’s an 8% dip from the early numbers of last week’s game, Atlanta’s 34-23 win over Green Bay. Amid cheers and boos from fans at FedEx Field in Maryland last night, the third week of the SNF  season declined 10% from early numbers of the comparable game of last year on September 25, 2016.

Deadline Hollywood reports that “NFL ratings are down double-digits this season so far after taking a similar tackle-for-loss last year.”

Forbes took a more nuanced view of the NFL’s ratings drop:

“The Redskins-Raiders matchup on NBC's Sunday Night Football averaged an 11.6 Nielsen rating, down 11% from last year's week three numbers. Fox's afternoon game scored a 10.3 rating, down 16% year over year. But earlier in the day, CBS' doubleheader saw a ratings increase of 4% over last year, with the first game garnering an 11% ratings uptick and the latter only seeing a 1% decline from last year.”

NFL remains defiant

Meanwhile, as three NFL teams stayed in their locker rooms Sunday rather than go on the field during the anthem, the NFL announced through a spokesman that there would there be no punitive action against players not standing for the anthem. Instead, NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart, a former spokesman for Democratic president Bill Clinton, praised the anti-Trump protests as “an important day for the league and, we think, a good one.”

“We … believe our players have a right to express themselves,” Lockhart said. The NFL is waiving its own policy stating that “all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem,” the National Post reported. The League manual says: “Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.”

NFL’s political correctness quotient grows

The NFL’s tolerance and encouragement of anti-patriotic protests by those wearing its uniform is only its latest step away from what many regard as the pro-American, pro-family values that were once its currency. Championing homosexuality seems to be the especially high on the league’s list of politically correct causes.

For example, the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots announced that they will sponsor this year’s ‘Gay Bowl,’ an LGBT flag football event, to be held in Boston in October.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he would be proud to have an openly homosexual player on his team, and the Patriots signed onto an amicus brief of major U.S. corporations urging the legalization of homosexuality-based “marriage.”

During the Pro Bowl in Orlando earlier this year, the NFL used its popular “kiss cam” to zoom in on homosexual and lesbian couples so that they would kiss for the public to see. The event was turned into a homosexual propaganda video by the Ad Council and has been viewed more than 6 million times, LifeSiteNews reported.

Rev. Franklin Graham said the NFL used the kiss cam in Orlando to promote homosexuality.

“Football season is over and the Super Bowl is behind us. But the NFL is trying to push homosexuality through a new pro same-sex ad,” Graham said, criticizing the NFL-Ad Council video as “trying to define sin as love and make it acceptable.”

While many Christians were not enthused by Trump’s use of a cuss-word to express his disdain for the race-based NFL protests, Princeton University professor and pro-family stalwart Robert George had perhaps one of the most stinging observations about them, writing on his Facebook page Sunday:

“Isn't the solution obvious? Run the rainbow flag (the one Trump famously waved) up the flagpole instead of Old Glory. Blare out “We Are Fam-i-ly.” Any player who took a knee would immediately be fired by terrified team owners (and perhaps drawn and quartered for good measure) with the enthusiastic approval of the media and the entire Establishment. The rest of the players could then get back to football. (Extra advantage: We'd be spared a lot of hypocritical talk about freedom of speech, the sacred right to protest, etc., etc., from people who actually don't believe in those things.)”