For at least the past six months, President Trump was touring the NFL stadiums across the country and most notably New York, where he talked about locker-room issues and politics.
After delivering “America’s Team,” Trump pointed the finger at players who kneeled during the national anthem, chanting “Hail to the Chief.” Many in the NFL agreed it was an insult, with several players claiming they were being silenced and being a distraction to the team.
Many in the media questioned the president’s “letting the nation know that we don’t always agree,” and the release of the NFL’s findings on the issue led to headlines and reality TV interviews about team owners who were indifferent to the NFL-related controversy.
During his presidential run, Trump made no secret of his plan to return the sports betting to offshore locations, and at the urging of former FBI Director James Comey, Congress passed legislation allowing the Department of Justice to direct the Justice Department to go to offshore tax havens for gambling. “When the NFL kneels, the NFL loses,” Trump declared a few months after his inauguration.After a series of football games in China, Trump said players at the Chinese venues “should be ashamed of themselves.” In a subsequent tweet, Trump defended his criticism of players protesting by saying, “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?’”
The NFL released its investigation, concluding that there was “no evidence” that players were “singling out” a particular group of Americans. Trump may not have been invited, but he played the race card on Twitter.
Republicans and others on the left agreed to debate on CNN, the same platform Trump used to blow smoke and diffuse the controversy.
Trump was wrong. The protests were about a disagreement on how to respond to people who are disrespecting our flag or country in an attempt to say more politically correct things about a social issue, but some right-wing commentators support it.
NFL kneeling has been going on for a few years in colleges and universities across the country. The issue has caught on with players, and while the protests have mostly focused on kneeling during the national anthem, some players have had to stay in the locker room during the pre-game. In this new generation of players, what was once a philosophical issue of race has become a joke, race has become the issue, and, well, everyone talks about race.
The knee-jerk reaction to the protests was a straight-up assault on the patriotism of the players, their communities and their families. The team owners and even some coaches have defended them, insisting it is in the spirit of “unity” and “humility” that these players are having their position questioned. How wrong they are.
The president may not have been invited, but he played the race card on Twitter. Saying the NFL players who kneel are “getting away with murder,” he means the black player, Troy Vincent, was shot and killed by police in Tennessee two years ago. Vincent reportedly pointed his gun at two police officers.
Criminal charges are pending against the two officers who fired their weapon at Vincent, but Vincent’s family has claimed the shooting was unjustified. At least one of the officers involved in the shooting was not charged.As the media’s disregard for the rights of black men grows, so does the unwarranted backlash for the players. No one, including the president, has any idea whether Vincent was being blackballed or whether Vincent’s death will be used as political gain in the midterm elections. How does a policy change like this affect the most disadvantaged members of America?
He may have been wrong, but the constant profanity, the anger and the mockery of an anthem protest has nothing to do with his actions. And worse, doesn’t help him to win the 2019 election.
The cartoonist, Dale Partridge, is a political cartoonist and associate professor of political science at New York University.