Thursday night in Alabama, at a rally, Trump went off on a tangent about the NFL and its bad ratings and how players who refused to stand for the national anthem (i.e., Colin Kaepernick) should be fired by the owners. This got cheers from the Alabamians, because they are Alabamians. And it made headlines on Friday (since he never says anything of substance), so Trump doubled down this weekend. And tripled down. And 4X downed. Etc. Here’s SOME of those tweets, which are continuing into this morning:
For its part, the NFL stood united. For the Sunday games, many owners released statements supporting their players’ right to protest. And of course, there was kneeling. Players kneeled. An owner kneeled. A singer of the National Anthem kneeled on the last line. Many in the crowds kneeled or stayed seated. Some booed. Others cheered. Some teams, rather than take part in a political spectacle, decided to stay in the locker room during the anthem. Players who didn’t kneel locked arms with those who did, in a sign of solidarity (including Trump’s friend, Tom Brady).
All-in-all, there was significant pushback. And what was once a smattering of kneels became an overwhelming number of them. Trump seemed please with those who booed.
Later, many players spoke out. They spoke of being “disappointed” or “disheartened”. A Seattle Seahawks wide receiver minced no words:
Trump does not seem to understand (or care) why some players had been choosing to kneel in the first place. It is not a stand against American ideals, the flag, or the Anthem. It is that the American ideals symbolized by the flag and the Anthem are not being applied to all of America’s citizens — black people in particular.
And now Trump is creating fight, challenging the patriotism of those who kneel. Trump is making clear his moral priorities. He is infinitely more offended by the sight of a black ballplayer quietly, peacefully protesting racism in the United States than he is by racism itself.
The question is why, e.g., why would Trump continue to poke at the players and, as he did Sunday night, call for the NFL to change its policies to ban any sort of protests surrounding the anthem?
The most basic (and right) answer is because he knows that, for his base, this fight is a winner for him. Specifically:
1. The players are rich. Remember that Trump, despite being a billionaire, sees himself (and is regarded) as the voice of the Average Joe. And he knows that lots of Average Joes resent how much money these players make for playing a game.
2. The players are playing a game. Spend 10 minutes talking about football (or any pro sport) with a group of people, and I guarantee that you will hear someone (if not several) say something like: “Man, they get to play a game for their job. I’d do that for free.” (Obviously points No. 1 and No. 2 are closely tied.)
3. The players are (mostly) black. Trump insisted on Sunday night that “this has nothing to do with race.” But that simply doesn’t fly. The vast majority of the players in the NFL are black. Ditto the players in the NBA, whom Trump also went after over the weekend. Trump knows that. And he also knows that when he uses phrases such as “our heritage” to describe what’s allegedly under assault in the anthem protests, many of his supporters see that in racial terms. You don’t simply get to repeatedly flick at racial animus — in the campaign and as President — and then plead total innocence when those code words trigger a reaction.
4. Trump can paint this as a battle for patriotism. The anthem protest was begun last year by then-San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who cited concerns about the deaths of African-American men at the hands of police as the motivation for his stance. Trump has seized on the protests as some sort of slap in the face to the military, which it’s not. By painting the players as insufficiently loyal to the country, Trump can make an appeal to patriotism — a powerful emotion not just in his base but in the country.
It certainly does not appear to be working. Yes, maybe it pleases his base, but most people recognize it as being divisive, even if they disagree with the protests. It is stirring a hornet’s nest, plain and simple.
Trump Tweets/RT Last 4 Days:
On dividing US over free speech rights of black athletes: ELEVEN
On uniting US to help Puerto Rico: ZERO
— Gene Sperling (@genebsperling) September 24, 2017
Others are wondering about his priorities. Days after Maria struck, Puerto Rico remains crippled by widespread destruction and catastrophic flooding. Villages were razed and communications ruined, leaving officials unable to tally an accurate toll of the death and devastation. Power is out, and restoration of the electrical grid may take months, not weeks. A dam was compromised, threatening major flooding and a loss of drinking water.
There is no food.
Although Puerto Rico cannot vote for president and has no voting representatives in Congress, its citizens are entitled to the same federal emergency funds and resources that Washington has been funneling to the far more politically powerful and economically resilient states of Texas and Florida in their hurricane miseries.
The same holds true for the US Virgin Islands.
Yet Trump has said (or tweeted) nothing these past few days on the subject. Instead, he throws oil on the fire of an already too-polarized country. It’s difficult to see the benefit in rending this country apart in a culture war. But apparently the White House sees this as good.
Trump adviser tells me POTUS is “winning the cultural war… just made millionaire sport athletes his new HRC.”
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) September 25, 2017
Clearly, this is why Russia wanted him to be president – to start wars in his own country.
FLASHBACK: From an owner of the USFL football team in Tampa Bay:
UPDATE: Conservatives, republicans and old white people have Trump’s back, but all told, only 38% agree with Trump
UPDATE: Props to Greg Popovich, head coach for the Spurs (basketball) for saying this at NBA Media Day: