At DiversityInc's fall event in Newark, N.J. on Wednesday, civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. addressed President Donald Trump's comments about NFL players' protests during the national anthem, and explained the reason why Colin Kaepernick began his protest — police brutality.
During a rally in Alabama on Friday, Trump referred to NFL players and other professional athletes who kneel or sit during the national anthem prior to games as "sons of bitches." It has been predominately Black athletes participating in the protests.
More than 200 players joined in solidarity Sunday to protest Trump's assault on their right to protest racial injustices.
The players are following the example of Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49er quarterback, who began the protest during the national anthem last year to highlight injustices and police brutality against minorities, including Black men killed by police.
"In the national anthem, there's a reference to slavery," Jackson said to an audience of diversity and inclusion executives.
Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner," known as the national anthem, in 1814. The first verse is played at sporting events. But, Key also wrote a third verse that gives a nod to slavery:
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Key was a slaveholder who believed Blacks to be "a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community."
Jackson also listed Black males who perished in police-related deaths including Trayvon Martin, Walter Scott, Amadou Diallo, and Michael Brown, and said Rodney King was "beaten nearly to death in California" and the officers involved "walked free."
"Don't Black lives matter? It's not that other lives don't matter. But, don't Black lives matter?
"In a democracy, you're supposed to pay a price for killing people."
"I think he's getting a raw deal," Aaron said.
Jackson said the reason the protests have "morphed into something bigger" than Kaepernick's original protest, now including Black athletes across the NFL, is because "it represents a bunch of unstated grievances."
"Almost all of these kids who are playing athletics come from some poor neighborhood," he said. "They broke out and did well."
But he said that "deep within their experiences" they may have been affected by knowing of someone killed by a police officer, or someone who had been falsely arrested.
"So now Trump comes and says to 'fire the son of a bitch,' Jackson said. "Black mothers are not bitches, they're queens who produce champions. They're not bitches who produce thugs."
Trump tweeted on Tuesday that NFL players should be required to stand for the national anthem.
The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations. The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can't kneel during our National Anthem!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 26, 2017
Attorney General Jeff Sessions echoed Trump's sentiment during an interview with "Fox and Friends" on Wednesday.
"I think it should be a formal rule of the league," he said. "They should be able to say to the players, 'If you're on our field, in our game, paid by us, you should respect the flag and the national anthem.'"
Sessions wants the NFL to limit free speech, but, as CBS News points out, on Tuesday, he backed free speech, and said that government should not restrict it.
During an address at the Georgetown University Law Center, Sessions criticized college speech policies.
"Freedom of thought and speech on the American campus are under attack," he said.
DiversityInc's fall event, "New Ideas for Best Practices," focused on new approaches to holding stakeholders accountable for D&I results, utilizing talent development as a revenue driver and infusing diversity in succession planning.