Kate Upton has spoken out against the four Miami Dolphins players who knelt during the national anthem during Sunday’s game. The athletes—running back Arian Foster, outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins, free safety Michael Thomas and wide receiver Kenny Stills—got down on their knees as the song played before the team’s 12-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
The four players’ decision to kneel rather than stand during the national anthem was the latest in a series of protests undertaken by several NFL players. San Francisco 49ers quarterbackColin Kaepernick began the controversial demonstration before a preseason football game in August.
Upton first retweeted SportsCenter Sunday night, adding, “Protest&speak ur mind whenever u want but during the 120secs you should support the people who protect our freedom.” In a follow-up post on Instagram, the two-time Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover-model further explained her objection to the players’ protest. “In my opinion, the national anthem is a symbolic song about our country. It represents honoring the many brave men and women who sacrifice and have sacrificed their lives each and every single day to protect our freedom. Sitting or kneeling down during the national anthem is a disgrace to those people who have served and currently serve our country. Sitting down during the national anthem on September 11th is even more horrific,” Upton wrote. “Protest all you want and use social media all you want. However, during the nearly two minutes when that song is playing, I believe everyone should put their hands on their heart and be proud of our country for we are all truly blessed.”
“Recent history has shown that it is a place where anyone no matter what race or gender has the potential to become President of the United States,” said Upton, who is engaged to Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander. “We live in the most special place in the world and should be thankful. After the song is over, I would encourage everyone to please use the podium they have, stand up for their beliefs, and make America a better place. The rebuilding of battery park and the freedom tower demonstrates that amazing things can be done in this country when we work together towards a common goal. It is a shame how quickly we have forgotten this as a society. Today we are more divided then ever before. I could never imagine multiple people sitting down during the national anthem on the September 11th anniversary. The lessons of 911 should teach us that if we come together, the world can be a better and more peaceful place #neverforget.”
Journalist Soledad O’Brien offered another perspective, tweeting, “Maybe you can be proud to be an American and also protest those things that you think aren’t so great about America.” But Upton encouraged O’Brien to “read” her Instagram post. “They have every right and SHOULD protest just not during those 2minutes on 9/11,” the model tweeted. When one Twitter user suggested the conversation was about to get “uglier,” O’Brien coolly replied, “Never. I love America and I am a @KateUpton fan. Just suggesting a different way to look at protest.”
Later, after journalist Roland Martin sent a link putting the protests into context, Uptontweeted, “Have every right to protest&should stand up for beliefs.Justice system IS corrupt.Not the time during anthem on 9/11.” Confused, Martin asked, “So in your world, the protests should take place on 9.10 or 9.12, just not 9/11? You are contradicting yourself.” Uptonreplied, “Sorry I wasn’t clear. Never during our national anthem. Especially on 9/11 #NeverForget.”
Foster, Jenkins, Thomas and Stills have not commented on Upton’s social media posts. Fostertweeted about the protest itself (which Stills retweeted), writing, “There was a pre game speech from our president commemorating those that lost their lives on that tragic day on 9/11. we stood for that. don’t put your hatred in our hearts. I love this country. don’t let the love for a symbol overrule the love for your fellow human.” Thomas, meanwhile, tweeted about the anniversary of Sept. 11 before he stepped onto the field, writing, “It’s #Gameday and I thank God for another opportunity. #Neverforget 9-11 #FinsUp #MT31 @MiamiDolphins.”
Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross spoke to the players before the game and supported their decision; Thomas tweeted a video confirming Ross’ encouragement. “Let’s not argue over our beliefs. I’m here to do my part to make a positive change,” he wrote. “Tough loss today. #ottn.”