By Prof John Wolohan
Syracuse University, New York, US
Last Friday evening, at a campaign rally for Luther Strange, a candidate in the Alabama Senate race, President Trump said that “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.’ He’s fired. He’s fired!”
In making his comments, Trump was talking about the current trend by NFL players to kneel in protest during the national anthem. The practice started last year when Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, began kneeling during the national anthem to protest against police violence against blacks in the United States.
As a result of Trump’s comments, NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell issued a statement that read:
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”
On Sunday, prior to the NFL games, nearly every NFL game featured at least one demonstration by players. The players were also supported by the owners. Jacksonville Jaguars owner, Shad Khan, linked arms with his players before Sunday morning’s game in London, UK. Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, linked arms and kneeled with his players prior to the NFL’s Monday night game. Probably most telling was the statement of Trump’s friend Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, who expressed his disapproval of Trump’s statement and proposal to boycott the League.
In addition to his statements against NFL players, the vast majority of whom are black, Trump followed up his Friday speech with a tweet disinviting the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors from visiting the White House. The tweet resulted when Golden State’s Steph Curry announced that he would skip the visit. As a result, Trump tried to save face by saying that the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors were not invited to the White House.
While picking fights with the NFL and the NBA, two Leagues where the players are predominantly black, Trump made a point of praising NASCAR drivers, who are predominantly white, after the national anthem at a race on Sunday went off without any protest.
In reviewing Trump’s actions and statements, some have accused the Top of Form
President of engaging in a culture war on behalf of his white, working-class base. Trump, however, has asserted that “the issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race,” but was “about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem.”
It seems that Trump is ready to pick a fight with anybody, including sports persons and Leagues – not very edifying for the leader of the ‘free world’!
Prof John Wolohan may be contacted by e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’