Sports apparel giant Nike has weighed in on the protest movement that's sweeping the NFL.
"Nike supports athletes and their right to freedom of expression on issues that are of great importance to our society," the company said in a statement, as quoted by CNN.
The controversial movement began in 2016 when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the traditional playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," according to SB Nation.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick declared.
The protest has since grown into a full-fledged movement among NFL players.
President Donald Trump contributed to its growth during a campaign rally in Alabama on Sept. 22, when he called for NFL owners to fire players who knelt during the national anthem before games to protest racial injustice and police violence.
"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. Out! He's fired! He's fired!'" Trump said.
In response to Trump's remarks, most NFL teams protested during the anthem in the following week's games, according to The Mercury News. Many players linked arms, while others chose to stay in their locker rooms.
Nike has the rights to make all NFL uniforms through the 2019 season, notes CNN.
Another major NFL corporate sponsor, Ford, is also taking the players' side in the controversy. In a statement issued on Oct. 2, the automaker said: "We respect individuals' rights to express their views, even if they are not ones we share."
Even NFL team owners, most of whom are political supporters of President Trump, are against him on this issue.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Trump's "divisive comments demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL."
DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFL Players Association, denounced Trump's position in a statement, which in part read:
The peaceful demonstrations by some of our players have generated a wide array of responses. Those opinions are protected speech and a freedom that has been paid for by the sacrifice of men and women throughout history. This expression of speech has generated thoughtful discussions in our locker rooms and in board rooms. However, the line that marks the balance between the rights of every citizen in our great country gets crossed when someone is told to just 'shut up and play.'
Sources: CNN, SB Nation, The Washington Post, The Mercury News / Featured Image: MB298/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf/Wikimedia Commons, Jennifer A. Villalovos/United States Navy via Wikimedia Commons