Majority Of Americans Oppose Trump’s Position On N.F.L. Protests
Most Americans don't support President Trump's statements about the protests by N.F.L. players, but it's just another example of him using hateful rhetoric to pander to his base.
A new poll finds that a majority of Americans disagree with President Trump’s comments about what should happen to National Football League players who decline to stand for the National Anthem:
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A majority of Americans disagree with President Donald Trump’s assertion that football players should be fired for kneeling during the national anthem, even though most say they would personally stand during the song, according to an exclusive Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday.
The Sept. 25-26 poll found that 57 percent of adults do not think the National Football League should fire players who kneel. This included 61 percent of NFL fans who watch at least a few games per season.
The results were split along party lines, however, as 82 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of Republicans disagreed with the president’s comments about firing football players.
Trump waded into the issue last week at a political rally when he bemoaned what he saw as a decline in the sport. Among other things, Trump criticized players who want to draw attention to what they believe is social and racial injustice by refusing to stand during the anthem.
“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’,” Trump said at the rally. “He’s fired!”
Trump, who once owned a pro football team in a now-defunct rival league, added that the NFL is “ruining the game” with a fixation on player safety.
The president’s comments sparked a swift and widespread rebuke from the NFL last weekend as many players, coaches and owners kneeled, locked arms or stayed off the field during pregame ceremonies.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll explored the complicated feelings that many Americans have about how to express their nationality.
Eighty-five percent of adults said, for example, that they almost always “stand in silence” when the national anthem is played at an event they are attending. Seventy-four percent said they almost always put their hand over their heart.
Yet, when it comes to professional athletes, there is less agreement about what is appropriate. While 58 percent of adults said that “professional athletes should be required to stand during the national anthem at sporting events,” there is rising support for those athletes who do not.
In the latest poll, 40 percent of Americans said that they support the stance that some pro football players have made to not stand during the anthem. That is up from 28 percent who answered the same way in a similar Reuters/Ipsos poll last year.
In addition, 53 percent of Americans do not think it is appropriate for the president to comment on “how the NFL and its players conduct themselves during the national anthem.”
Given the fact that they are largely consistent with other polling taken in response to controversial comments made by the President in press appearances, speeches, and on Twitter, these poll results are not entirely surprising. Additionally, while there have been some claims by many on the right that the protests have led to declining television ratings for the N.F.L., the reality is that the decline has been far less severe than some commentators have claimed, and to the extent that viewership as traditionally measured has shown somewhat of a decline over the course of the past two years it’s likely that this decline is attributable to factors unrelated to the protest such as the fact that television viewing habits are rapidly changing in favor of streaming video. Additionally, subsequent reports have indicated that ratings for Sunday night’s game on NBC and Monday night’s game on ESPN were both up over previous weeks and helped to boost total viewership for Week 3’s N.F.L. games to a number decidedly better than the same week one year ago. Additionally, polling in the past has shown that while the American public does think that standing during the National Anthem is the preferred behavior, they do not begrudge the players the choice they are making to conduct the protests that began with former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Notwithstanding this rebuke from the American public, Trump is unlikely to stop his attacks on the N.F.L. or the players who have been protesting. For one thing, these attacks serve what seems like a common Trump purpose to divert attention away from apparent failures and toward the kind of culture war issues that inflame his base and result in a plethora of coverage from the media. In this case, it helps Trump in distracting attention away from issues such as the failure of the effort to ‘repeal and replace’ the Affordable Care Act, the ongoing Russia investigation, and the fact that the candidate he backed in yesterday’s runoff election in Alabama ended up losing, an outcome that Trump is reportedly not taking well. Second, as Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman note in The New York Times, these attacks on the N.F.L. fall into a familiar Trump pattern of using divisive rhetoric to shore up his base:
WASHINGTON — President Trump was restless on the flight home from his rally on Friday night in Alabama, griping about the size of the crowd, wondering how his pink tie played with his audience and fretting about the low energy of the Senate candidate he was there to bolster.
But there was one part of the trip that cheered him up, according to three people close to the president: rallygoers’ thunderous approval of his attack on Colin Kaepernick, a former N.F.L. quarterback, for kneeling in protest during the national anthem, a slam punctuated by an epithet-laced suggestion that team owners fire employees who disrespect patriotic tradition.
Over the weekend, Mr. Trump, while with a small group of advisers in the dining room of his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., asked a few members what they thought of his attack on Mr. Kaepernick. The response, according to one Trump associate, was polite but decidedly lukewarm.
Mr. Trump responded by telling people that it was a huge hit with his base, making it clear that he did not mind alienating his critics if it meant solidifying his core support.
“The president’s critics have it wrong,” Kellyanne Conway, a White House adviser who served as Mr. Trump’s campaign manager and pollster in 2016, said Monday. “They call him impulsive. He is intuitive.”
Mr. Trump is seldom at a loss for motives in picking a public fight, and conflict seems to soothe him in the way that it unnerves others. He loved getting a rise from the players and owners who linked arms in solidarity before Sunday’s slate of football games, aides and associates said. His satisfaction was blighted only by the disapproval expressed by his friend Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots.
The president’s provocations are a real-time expression of his emotions in the moment and his feel for a crowd. More than anything, such fights are a reflection of his focus on what it takes to keep his restive populist base behind him, and a ritual of self-preservation intended to divert attention from other, more damaging narratives.
But this time, Mr. Trump, who tends to lash out when attacked, seemed to make his comments during comparative quiescence, with majorities of Americans approving of his response to the recent hurricanes and a stopgap budget deal with Democrats that took leaders in his party by surprise.
But White House officials say the president is deeply worried that his recent show of bipartisanship on the budget and on the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals immigration program with two Democratic leaders — Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer — endangers his standing with the base.
Mr. Trump, according to the officials, believes his decision to back Luther Strange — a struggling establishment conservative in the Alabama Senate race and the reason Mr. Trump went to Alabama — makes him appear weak. He has repeatedly expressed unhappiness with his political team for persuading him to back Mr. Strange, who has drawn opposition from many of Mr. Trump’s supporters, including Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, and not his opponent, Roy Moore, a former judge.
For those reasons, Mr. Trump leaned right harder than usual on Friday night. He chided Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, for opposing his latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and he ridiculed North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, as the “Little Rocket Man.” He also offered the most tempered of support for his purported ally, Mr. Strange — “Big Luther” to the president.
But his most conspicuous targets were the highly paid athletes, most of them black, who during the playing of the national anthem at football games have protested police brutality and what they say is the systematic racism behind it. The vehemence was tactical, but also visceral. Mr. Trump has often taken a dim view of race-based protest and, as the onetime owner of a football franchise in a failed start-up league, he believes owners of sports teams should control their employees.
it was a reprise of a formula the president used repeatedly during the 2016 presidential campaign — digging in on one side of an inflammatory issue amid praise from conservatives, and enjoying the spectacle of his critics condemning him.
“He intuitively understands that making compromise with the Democrats is sort of the opposite of what he told his base he was going to do,” said Alex Conant, a veteran Republican consultant who was part of Senator Marco Rubio’s campaign team in 2016.
“It’s not a coincidence that the same week he did the DACA deal that he just flooded Twitter with a bunch of red meat for the base,” Mr. Conant added. “I think his fundamental problem is he needs to figure out ways to grow his base, and his instinct is instead to double down on what he’s already got. Whenever he tacks to the middle, his numbers tick up. But he just can’t bring himself to move beyond his base.”
That is not how Mr. Trump sees it.
In private, the president and his top aides freely admit that he is engaged in a culture war on behalf of his white, working-class base, a New York billionaire waging war against “politically correct” coastal elites on behalf of his supporters in the South and in the Midwest. He believes the war was foisted upon him by former President Barack Obama and other Democrats — and he is determined to win, current and former aides said
CNN’s Chris Cillizza makes a similar argument:
Trump’s decision to start this feud with NFL players — and professional athletes more broadly — is a telling window into how he views (and uses) the power of the presidency: To divide, not to unite. To forever focus on scoring political points, to please and placate the political base that helped elect him to the White House. To always, always, always look for where we disagree — and where those disagreements can be exploited for his own gain.
That is, at root, a fundamental departure from the way that previous presidents have operated.
Every man to hold the White House prior to Trump seemed to have an innate grasp of the power of the presidency and how to use it. Think of the presidency like a lighthouse. Anywhere a president chooses to shine that light will be illuminated. It will drive attention to it and media coverage of it. The bully pulpit may not be as bully-ish as it once was, but when the president prioritizes an issue, it becomes an issue that people and the press can’t ignore.
For most presidents, that means shining a light on our common humanity — whether it’s helping bind the country together after a terrorist attack or a natural disaster or the more mundane daily work of reminding people that much more unites us than divides us.
Trump has inverted that. He seems bent on reminding us on what divides us rather than what unites us.
Trump has a finely-tuned ear for what will resonate with his political base. And casting himself as the voice of the people against rich, entitled and primarily black athletes — yes, of course, race is tied up in this — is a strong place to be for some not-small element of his base.
Whether he wants to admit it to himself or not, Trump is purposely playing on lingering racial resentment and animus in the country to remind people of what divides us. And he is doing so because he knows it will work.
It’s the same reason he suggested he saw Muslims celebrating on New Jersey rooftops on September 11, 2001. And the same reason he failed to condemn white supremacist David Duke for days during the campaign. And why he sought to cast the white supremacist protests in Charlottesville as the result of violent people “on many sides.”
Trump ran as a divider, not a uniter. He won that way — offering safe harbor for people who had long resented politicians who told them they had to accept those who didn’t look like them, sound like them or think like them.
Divisiveness works in politics — especially in a fractured media environment in which you can spend your life never being confronted with a reasonable argument that clashes with your worldview and in a self-sorted America in which we live, work and play around only people who agree with us on, well, everything.
From this point of view, it’s quite easy to understand why Trump decided to jump on the N.F.L. protests even though they had largely died down over the course of last season and that their originator, Colin Kaepernick, is not currently an active player on any team. Much like politicians who jumped on the flag burning bandwagon in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Texas v. Johnson in 1990, this is the kind of red meat political issue that tends to rile up what is essentially the same white working-class base that Trump relies upon as his core supporters. Additionally, it plays to the racial divisions that exist over the issues that the kneeling protesters are seeking to bring to the attention of the public, such as police misconduct and abuse and the continued fact that African-American males specifically are disproportionately targeted by police and disproportionately the victims of police shooting incidents, especially those that occur under questionable circumstances.
Without fail, polling has shown that while Americans as a whole are concerned about these issues, the reaction is quite different among Republicans, conservatives, and most especially that segments of both of those groups that have been among Trump’s most loyal supporters from the time he entered the race for President. Finally, as Thrush and Haberman note, Trump has come under criticism from some quarters of his base for his recent decisions to cut deals with Democrats on issues such as the budget and debt ceiling and on a legislative solution to his decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Appeals to the base such as this help to divert attention from those complaints, and to return attention to the culture war that Trump is clearly profiting from. As long as that’s the case, we can expect him to continue to use his speeches and his Twitter account to divide the nation and energize his base. While this is a formula that may help Trump politically, it isn’t good for the nation as a whole and will only lead to even wider political and cultural polarization. What that means for the future is anyone’s guess.
(I am posting this at the risk of giving Dear Leader Kim Jong Trump and his goons any ideas.)
Surely people kneeling respectfully* during the national anthem is the greatest threat our nation faces, and it’s important that our President prioritize it over Puerto Rico, North Korea, Russian interference in our elections, the opioid epidemic, etc.
(*) respectfully? Absolutely. see here
I saw a picture of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones holding arms with his players! Come on, Jerry, are you people going to play football or do the hokey-pokey? That’s certainly not going to strike any fear in the Washington Redskins.
“America’s team” – my foot!
@Tyrell:Is there a point you would like to make?
@Gustopher: Yes, but the players who started this problem weren’t and aren’t kneeling respectfully; they’re
nCLAANNGradical leftists who are kneeling to protest FAKE NEWS charges of racism about good loyal American police officers and others. That’s about as far from respectful as you can get.
@Tyrell: Were you at least standing in front of a Confederate flag when you wrote that? Some days, I’m ashamed to be an ign’int cracker.
@Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: No. I never liked the Falcons, or Atlanta.
If you actually look at the poll and not just what the reporter highlighted, you find…
A majority think pro athletes should stand for the National Anthem.
A majority disapprove of what Colin Kaepernick did.
A plurality disapprove of how the NFL has handled the situation.
Over twice as many respondents say this has made them view the NFL more negatively than those that say it’s improved their opinion of the league.
Gee. I wonder why THAT information got left out of Doug’s post.
@MBunge: It would be faster if you just typed MAGA.
Don’t entirely dismiss the idea that ‘Mike’ is a Russian troll. Either that or he gets off on humiliation.I’d respect him more if he were getting paid to smear himself with fecal matter.
@michael reynolds: You do realize Mike has been here for several years? Were the Russians planting trolls back in 2011?
A majority think pro athletes should stand for the National Anthem.
Well, fvck ’em! What are they going to do? Pass laws to coerce citizens to stand?
Maybe Trump’s children will take a tip from from Mike “Hambone” Huckabee and
threaten to blow their black heads off“force them at gunpoint no less” to support Pud’s right wing populist agenda.
I’m wondering if Tyrell is our own Ken M. Just google “Ken M best trolls” to see what I mean.
As I posted on the other thread, a “majority” in polls doesn’t mean anything to Republicans anymore because they feel only Real American’s opinions matter. I’ve seen it argued on multiple sites that liberals have an unfair advantage in polling (there’s so many of them!!!) that they dilute the results to meaningless garbage. After all, clearly liberals don’t watch the NFL so they must be flooding the polls to cheat for their agenda.
They also refuse to believe one can hold contradictory views expressed in the same poll – MBunge cites that most disagree with Kaepernick but still disagree with Trump. They can’t understand that these are two separate issues; one can not be happy with protests during the anthem while fully supporting their right to do so and not liking the President’s comments on the matter. What this poll really shows is people are unhappy with the situation in general, think everyone involved could have handled it better or at a different time but still think the players have the constitutional right to do what they are doing and Trump needs to STFU.
Which is something that running dog fighting rings, domestic abuse, child abuse, rape, DUI, and murder allegations haven’t done.
Well done, America.
Maybe I’ve been out of the states too long, but I don’t get the outrage with taking a knee in America in general. Lots of people mocked Tim Tebow for taking a knee, now even more people are upset at Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee.
But I always thought taking a knee was a sign of respect. Didn’t people kneel to be knighted? When did it become something to be mocked or offended by?
Imagine how many people would be against Trump on this if we had just all stopped talking about it.
Why, there might even have been a majority against him.
Wait, hold on….
That’s what’s so infuriating about this. It’s *NOT* a disrespectful gesture at all – in fact, one can argue it’s even more respectful then the traditional salute to the “fallen veterans” the GOP has falsely linked this protest to. Instead, it’s faux outrage that they are daring to do something else during a “sacred time” that incidentally has plenty of fans in the background shots on their phones, talking, sitting, etc then pay obeisance to the cult of the military. The flag is for *America*, not just the military. It represents fallen war heroes and desk jockeys, sanitation workers and seasoned SEALS. The GOP is acting like the NFL is pissing on the Tomb on the Unknown Solider when really they’re politely doing what most people actual do during the anthem: not meaningfully participate.
Seriously, when was the last time you saw everyone stand up, do the proper salute and sing? When was the last time you saw a majority do most of those things correctly and with intent rather then phoning it in? How many of those folks at home watching are standing and saluting the whole time rather then chatting and getting the doritos?
@MBunge: A majority of Americans think that Trump should have kept his yap shut. You ignored that part. Believe it or not it is possible for people to support standing for the National Anthem while at the same time understanding why someone else would not. Remember Voltaire? Wasn’t he the man who said “I might disagree with what you say, but I will fight for you right to say it?”
Some people fail at comprehending nuance…and that goes double for Trump and his fan club. Trump will probably end up making more Americans support these players, not less.
I was trying to think of an excuse for him. I mean, if he’s not being paid to make an ass of himself, why does he keep doing it?
The Russians have been cultivating Trump for at least five years, it’s not impossible.
So similar, in spirit, to my assertion that if we dropped marginal federal income tax rates to Zero, we would eliminate budget deficits!
@michael reynolds: @Anonne: Well, if he’s on their payroll, they should fire him. His entire shtick over the past several months has been to make some utterly conventional criticisms of the Republican Party and then follow it with the non sequitur “Trump is not the problem.” You seriously believe he’s swayed anyone with this lame drivel? It isn’t even good propaganda.
No, he’s convinced no one. But then neither has Trump. Team KKK has added zero net supporters since the election, rather the contrary.
I think people fixating on the unshakability of the 40% are missing the significance of this. Basically zero people have come to support Trump. He was elected by 46%, quickly fell to 40% support and hasn’t moved off that number in nine months. This despite the fact that the Obama recovery continues and the stock market is strong.
Imagine an IPO. It opens at $46 a share, quickly drops to $40 a share and, despite a generally bullish market, limps along at $37 to $40 a share for nine months. The company just rolled out its first product: health care reform, and promptly had to withdraw it from the market. You want to buy that stock?
Yeah, but you’re missing the real point of an IPO. You have an IPO so that you can juice up the initial value of a stock so that when you sell your stake during the IPO, you can make a killing. I think Trump juiced up his perceived worth about as much as he could. The fact that it has been down hill from there is also fairly typical of the whole IPO phenomenon.
Trump retaining a solid 40% means he is in good shape for re-election. They dipped a toe in the their strategy last time and I’m sure they will double down on it this time: Goad Bernie into running as an independent. And given Bernie’s personality, it has a very good chance of working.
It’s often useful to wait for a little while when some big story breaks, to let things shake out a bit and relevant facts to bubble to the surface. A few examples:
1) As was often repeated here in the cases of Chick-Fil-A, Brendan Eich, James Damore, and a host of other cases, the First Amendment only limits what the government can do. The players who are choosing to express a political opinion while in the stadium, in uniform, and in public are risking disciplinary action from their employers.
2) As we saw when President Obama pronounced that “the Cambridge police acted stupidly,” presidents do not forfeit their own First Amendment right to speak out on issues. If Obama’s declaration didn’t constitute attempted obstruction of justice, how is what Trump said so bad?
3) The NFL has already shown that it can and will regulate players’ political expressions on the field. When players wanted to wear commemorative 9/11 decals on their helmets, they were fined. When the Dallas Cowboys wanted to commemorate the assassination of five police officers by a BLM terrorist, they were shot down. So the NFL isn’t open to all expression, they are explicitly acting based on the content of the speech.
4) When a single Pittsburgh Steeler chose to leave the locker room to salute the flag during the National Anthem, expressing his own beliefs, he was singled out and hounded until he had to apologize for standing alone.
4A) Note that in the immediate aftermath of that Steelers game, Alejandro Villanueva’s jersey suddenly became the NFL’s best-selling jersey.
5) Colin Kaepernick’s original protest was based on “police brutality,” and he specifically cited the Michael Brown “Hands up/don’t shoot” story. That has been conclusively proven to have been a fraud, but the legacy of that lie lives on.
6) The majority of football fans, who spend lots of money to support the sport, do not like the protests, and many are voting with their wallets to end their support of the NFL. It’s a poor business model that chooses to insult its customers.
7) The biggest blessing out of all this for the left is that it gives you all an excuse to not talk about the Bob Menendez trial, the Irwan Aman mess, how Trump’s handling of the hurricane season has NOT been a total disaster, the revelation that Russia spent a ton of money on the election pushing the Black Lives Matter narrative, and so on, and so on…
@Bob The Arqubusier:
The NFL is explicitly saying this is false. They ban all uniform modifications regardless of why. They wouldn’t allow players to wear black arm bands to protest the treatment of African Americans by police. That’s why they ended up kneeling.
@Bob The Arqubusier:
They arrested Henry Louis Gates trying to get into his own house. That seems pretty stupid to me. Also, Obama didn’t call the police “sons of bitches.”
There is an undercurrent in Gene-Ose’s comments, and even more so in Trump and Cohn and everyone else. NFL players are just employees. They should shut up and do as they are told by their boss, the owner, who is after all, the only with the right to express an opinion. Fortunately the NFL players have a union. Many, many workers would be a lot better off if they had one too.
@Bob The Arqubusier: Shorter Jenos: “I don’t actually have anything to say on this subject, but maybe if I type enough words people won’t notice.”
@MarkedMan: They also would not allow players to wear armbands or symbols honoring the police officers killed in Texas.
The NFL owners, players, and sports media should focus on J.J. Watt.
Ah ah, rich black men having *opinions*. Millionaires, like FOX News gasped, having the nerve to protest stuff instead of running around and getting hit for our enjoyment. How dare they! Of course, when non-black players like Tom Brady protest, it kinda gets shoved aside as “the team” getting tricked/ forced/ guilted into solidarity with those unpatriotic troublemakers instead of grown men making their own choices.
They’re also conveniently ignoring the owners and managers generally agree with this protest and several have taken part. These aren’t namby-pamby liberals either- quite a few
arewere friendly with Trump and played an active role in his campaign. The NFL doesn’t like Trump right now so all these calls to fire people ain’t happening. For once, the boss and worker have the same opinion: FU buddy, we’ll protest if we want to.
Then what the hell was the point of this “Russian interference” anyway? Why send out that army of trolls if all they’re going to accomplish is to annoy people? That doesn’t sound like a very smart investment. He might as well be the more traditional loser-in-his-mom’s-basement variety (which is probably exactly what he is), for all the difference that it makes.
The truth is, one of the big aims of the Russian operation wasn’t to make people like Trump but to make people hate Hillary. Candidates do not win elections with 46% support unless their opponent has been losing votes either to third parties or to people who stayed home.
@MarkedMan: There is an undercurrent in Gene-Ose’s comments, and even more so in Trump and Cohn and everyone else. NFL players are just employees. They should shut up and do as they are told by their boss, the owner, who is after all, the only with the right to express an opinion.
Careful, don’t let that straw man get too close to any open flames.
No one is saying they can’t speak out. They can speak out all they want — on their own time. When they’re “on the clock,” at a game, in uniform, their job is to, yes, shut up and play the game.
ESPN fired Curt Schilling for something he Tweeted on his own time. I think they were wrong to do so, but they were perfectly within their rights to do so. And I can’t seem to find any indications that anyone here was upset when he was canned…
@Bob The Arqubusier:
I agree with you.
Although I think Schilling is a prodigious waste of bandwidth and oxygen I don’t think he should have been fired for expressing that bulls***. Plus I’ll never forgive him for that hokey ‘bloody sock’ story, drama queen, queen for a day bulls***.
Ultimately a media company like ESPN will let the ‘market’ decide if Curt is worth the trouble. I was not surprised that they let him go, it wasn’t the first time Curt ‘went Palin’ and sounded out-to-lunch.