Musicians Take A Knee

Although President Donald Trump claimed via Twitter today that there is “tremendous backlash against the NFL” for players’ national anthem protest, musicians from across genres showed solidarity with the athletes by taking a knee during concerts over the weekend.  

Eddie Vedder,

Eddie Vedder
Amy Harris/Invision/AP
– Eddie Vedder
Eddie Vedder takes a knee on stage at the Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival on Sept. 24, 2017, in Franklin, Tenn.

The national anthem protest – that began last year by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand for the anthem to bring attention to racial injustice in the U.S. – was brought to the center of the news cycle again after Trump appeared at a campaign rally Friday evening. The president proclaimed, “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 response, Stevie Wonder kneeled on the stage at Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on Saturday, along with his son Kwame Morris and said, “Tonight, I’m taking a knee for America. But not just one knee, I’m taking both knees. Both knees in prayer for our planet, our future, our leaders of the world and our globe. Amen. I wanted to say that prayer before I served you my musical meal.”

A post on Global Citizen’s website about “The Political History Behind the NFL’s #TakeAKnee Protests” pointed to a tweet from Martin Luther King’s youngest daughter, Bernice King, that included a photo of Kapernick taking a knee, alongside a photo of MLK kneeling with protestors to take a stand for voter registration rights at the Dallas County courthouse in Selma, Ala., in 1965.

King wrote, “The real shame & disrespect is that, decades after the 1st photo, racism STILL kills people & corrupts systems. #America #TakeAKnee @POTUS.”

Come Sunday, with eyes on how the NFL would react, players from the New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, the Denver Broncos and the Miami Dolphins took a knee during the national anthem, while other athletes linked arms with those protesting in solidarity, according to CNN. The Pittsburgh Steelers chose not to participate in the anthem Sunday, which coach Mike Tomlin said was a decision “to remove ourselves from the circumstances” and not take sides, according to ESPN.  

The entire rosters for the Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans also waited to take the field at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium until after the anthem, which was performed by Meghan Linsey and ended with the country singer / “The Voice” finalist taking a knee.

“I want to say, I love my country and I have so much respect for those who died for our right to stand, kneel, or be absent during the anthem yesterday. The heart of our country is our Constitution, and we are all walking, talking, breathing symbols of that Constitution,” Linsey said in a statement.

“Yesterday upon finishing the anthem, I kneeled in solidarity with the players and for those who experience racism and police brutality on a daily basis. I love the American Flag, but a symbol is nothing without the people it represents, so yesterday, I kneeled for those who are mistreated, beaten down and disregarded.”

Pearl Jam tweeted its support for Kaepernick and Seattle Seahawks’ Michael Bennett: “We support @mosesbread72, @Kaepernick7, and everyone’s constitutional right to stand up, sit down or #takeaknee for equality.”

The Seahawks released the following statement ahead of Sunday’s game: “As a team, we have decided we will not participate in the national anthem. We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country. Out of love for our country and in honor of the sacrifices made on our behalf, we unite to oppose those that would deny our most basic freedoms. We remain committed in continuing to work towards equality and justice for all.”

On Sunday frontman Eddie Vedder kneeled in front of the crowd during his solo headline set at Pilgrimage Fest in Franklin, Tenn. Pearl Jam posted a video of Vedder’s protest on Twitter with the hashtag #TakeAKnee. Pollstar reached out to representatives for Vedder but he wasn’t immediately available for comment.  

Wonder took a knee again during “A Concert for Charlottesville” at the University of Virginia’s Scott Stadium on Sunday. Dave Matthews and Pharrell Williams also kneeled in solidarity during the event.

“I’m in Virginia right now. I’m home. Can’t nobody tell me what to do if I wanted to get on my knees right now,” Williams told the audience, according to Rolling Stone. “If I wanted to get on my knees right now for the people of my city, for the people of my state. That’s what that flag is for.”

Roger Waters and his band kneeled at Sunday’s concert at XL Center in Hartford, Conn., with Waters raising his right fist in the air at one point. John Legend also took a knee and raised his fist in solidarity at his Sunday gig in Hamburg, Germany. RS points out that the members of Prophets of Rage showed support by wearing Kaepernick jerseys.

De La Soul’s Posdnuos joined in the protest during the group’s performance at Life Is Beautiful festival in San Francisco. The rapper said, “Pardon me while I take a knee,” ahead of a performance of “Stakes Is High,” according to NME. A representative for De La Soul was not immediately available for comment.

Cast members of the Broadway play “1984” also took a knee at New York’s Hudson Theatre during Sunday’s curtain call, according to MarketWatch.

New York Times examined the ratings for NFL viewership with an article titled “Reading Something in the N.F.L. Ratings? You’re probably Wrong.”

Kevin Draper wrote Sept. 25, “The unofficial overnight ratings for Sunday’s games were down by about 4 percent, but it is likely that the overall Week 3 ratings will rise with strong viewership for the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, coupled with high numbers from last Thursday’s game.

He added, “In an interesting wrinkle, while ratings for the games themselves were incomplete, CBS said ratings for its pregame show rose by 33 percent, while Fox’s two pregame shows were up by 30 percent (from 11 a.m. to noon Eastern) and 9 percent (from noon until the 1 p.m. kickoffs).”

To the surprise of no one, Ted Nugent is one artist who doesn’t support the kneeling NFL players. The proudly conservative musician shared several Facebook posts on the subject including one that said, “Dear NFL: We will not support millionaire ingrates who hate America and disrespect our Armed Forces and Veterans. Who wins a football game has ZERO impact on our lives. Who fights and defends our nation has EVERY impact on our lives. We stand with the Heroes, not a bunch of rich, entitled, arrogant, ungrateful, anti-American degenerates. Signed, We the People.”