On September 23, President Donald Trump spoke out in opposition of NFL players kneeling for the national anthem. He tweeted that players should “find something else to do” if they don’t want to stand, and later suggested they be “fired or suspended.” Not only did he speak out against one of the most powerful corporations in the United States, but also against the hundreds of millions of fans that support it, tweeting “sports fans should never condone players that do not stand.”

It is important to know that before Trump’s tweets, quarterback Colin Kaepernick was ostracized and basically blacklisted by NFL owners because of his silent protest of the flag. However, the following Sunday after the tweets, NFL teams responded to the verbal attack on their freedom. Every team either collectively locked arms or knelt during the anthem before the opening kickoff, and two teams even chose to stay in their locker room. Further, owners of franchises issued statements that were effectively the same, all essentially saying that their players work hard and have no less right to freedom of expression than any other citizen. The sports world blew up as athletes tweeted in disagreement and fans followed their lead. The feeling towards kneeling for the national anthem had, strangely enough, changed — people took Kaepernick’s side.

Fans became sympathetic towards players who had the courage to express their rights as United States citizens, all because the leader of the United States told them they couldn’t. The collective feeling towards such a touchy subject changed because the president tried to contradict the very ideas he was elected to protect. But what is different in this response from what he has said in the past? Why is there such a different reaction? And why is it so important?

Like many Americans, I’ve been angered and saddened by many of the president’s public statements. It’s hard to fathom much of what he has said on the topics of immigration, race, gender, and sexuality.

This is a fight that Donald Trump cannot possibly win. The NFL represents a demographic that spans far beyond the minority groups he is used to oppressing or instigating.

Why do we watch sports? Do we watch it to cheer on our favorite player or our favorite team? Do we watch it because it takes us away from the stresses of daily life? Even if you’re one of those fans who watch because your family or friends make you, we can all appreciate sports for one reason: because, I think, it’s free of hate. Hate does not belong in sports — it does not belong anywhere, for that matter.

Stand, sit, kneel, or lock arms — it’s your choice; it’s the player’s choice. It’s been happening for years. To name a few who have used sports as a political podium — Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali, LeBron James, Colin Kaepernick. And not just individuals, but also teams have unified in protest too. My point is: I think that sports are hate free but not politics free.

Isn’t it interesting how sports are not just games, but ways of life? Sports in general are a little subculture in our corrupt, hectic, hate-filled, and disjointed society. Differences occur on the field: players fight, talk trash, and get physical. But after the game or match is done, they shake hands or switch jerseys. I feel that they sort out their differences in an act of sportsmanship. Let us apply that to our own lives. Let us speak our minds and stand up for our rights but do not let that divide us. We must allow the honesty in these protests to bring our world together. Donald Trump’s comments about the NFL are combative, hurtful, and signal hate, and they are so significant because they directly contradict the values we try to protect for ourselves in the United States of America.