Kyle, whose Navy SEAL husband was often called the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, joins a growing chorus of voices taking a stance in the battle between the NFL and President Trump. NFL players and owners have knelt or locked arms to protest police brutality against African Americans or Trump’s attacks against the league, while the president contends that taking a knee during the national anthem is a sign of disrespect for the American flag and veterans.
Kyle, a 43-year-old mother of two who has spoken out in support of gun rights and Trump’s travel ban, posted her “Letter to the NFL” on Tuesday, explaining how the United States’ most popular sport had united people of different races, religions, and backgrounds in concession line chats and the rising and falling fortunes of their respective teams.
Did it ever occur to you that you and we were already a mix of backgrounds, races and religions? We were already living the dream you want, right in front of you.
Your desire to focus on division and anger has shattered what many people loved most about the sport. Football was really a metaphor for our ideal world –different backgrounds, talents, political beliefs and histories as one big team with one big goal — to do well, to win, TOGETHER.
You are asking us to abandon what we loved about togetherness and make choices of division. Will we stand with you? Will we stand with our flag? What does it mean? What does it mean if we buy a ticket or NFL gear? What does it mean if we don’t? It is the polar opposite of the easy togetherness we once loved in football.
She concluded by challenging the NFL’s “strong guys” to fight for issues they claim to care about with their on-field demonstrations, writing:
You have a lot of strong guys, I am sure in the off season a lot of them could build some pretty big bridges if they care enough to do the hard work. That would involve getting off their knees and getting to work though. I can do it while I raise two kids as their only parent and work through the greatest pain of my life, let’s see if they can do it for the issues they say they care so much about.
Last year, the NFL Players Union recognized former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the first player to kneel in protest during the national anthem, for his service in the community and pledge to donate $1 million to charities.
Kyle’s statement came a day after the widow of former NFL player and Army Ranger Pat Tillman defended the right to free speech.
On Monday, Trump shared a tweet about Tillman as an example of why the players should stand for the anthem. Later in the day, Marie Tillman, whose husband was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004, said in a statement that “Pat’s service, along with that of every man and woman’s service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us.”
She added: “The very action of self-expression and the freedom to speak from one’s heart — no matter those views — is what Pat and so many other Americans have given their lives for.”
Tillman had previously criticized Trump over an order barring travel from seven majority-Muslim countries.
“This is not the country he dreamed of, not what he served for and not what he died for,” she said of her late husband.
Chris Kyle was a celebrated veteran who had deployed to some of the Iraq War’s most intense battlegrounds, The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe reported. His autobiography, “American Sniper,” was made into an Oscar-winning movie by Clint Eastwood.
Kyle was shot and killed in 2013 by a Marine Corps veteran at a shooting range in Texas.
In an interview in April, Taya Kyle said that while touring the country first for the “American Sniper” movie and then for her book, she found that many people were “exhausted by all the conflicts.”
“If you take the polarizing conflicts out of the conversation, you’d realize most people are not so far apart,” she told the Sioux City Journal. “We might disagree on some things, but we’re not hateful with our neighbor. If we had a conversation, we might be able to list off 100 things we agree on. Somehow, it’s getting scarier and scarier to start those conversations.”