Trump Dismisses Racial Injustice Concerns Of Kneeling N.F.L. Players

In a new interview, the President says that he doesn't believe that N.F.L. players who kneel during the National Anthem have a real issue.

Wading yet again into the issue of kneeling protests during the National Anthem by N.F.L. players, President Trump said on Friday that he didn’t believe that the issue that they say they are protesting is a real issue:

In a spontaneous interview on Friday with Fox News on the White House lawn, President Donald Trump said NFL athletes “shouldn’t get the politics involved,” and added that no players have contacted him after he invited them to submit recommendations for presidential pardons.

“They’re saying people are aggrieved. OK. Let me know about it. I’ll look at it. If they’re aggrieved, I’ll pardon them. I’ll get them out,” Trump said. ”Maybe they’ve called the staff. But I have not personally heard from one. Because I don’t know if it’s a real issue. I don’t think it’s a real issue.”

Trump also reiterated his long-standing belief that NFL players should stand during the pregame rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. He has criticized players who have kneeled as unpatriotic and disrespectful to military members, even as players have described the gesture as a means of protesting police brutality and systemic issues of racial inequality.

“They’re all saying, ‘Oh, it has nothing to do with the flag, it’s the way we’ve been treated,'” Trump said earlier in the interview. ”In the meantime, they’re making $15 million a year. Look, I’m all for the athletes. I think it’s great. I love athletics. I love sports. But they shouldn’t get the politics involved.”

Here’s the video:

This all began, of course, during the 2016 N.F.L. season when San Francisco Quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the National Anthem. While he didn’t offer an explanation for the action at first, Kaepernick later stated that the decision to kneel was intended to protest racism, police brutality, and the treatment of African-American men by police across the country, an issue that had come to the forefront in the wake of the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri, the Eric Garner case in New York City, and other cases that rose to public attention from around the country. Kaepernick was joined by a handful of other players during the 2016 season, but the issue had largely disappeared from headlines weeks after it started and the season proceeded forward without significant controversy.

With the return of football last fall, the issue revived thanks to some sporadic cases of other players kneeling, although Kaepernick was not among them due to the fact that he had been released by the 49erss and still has not been signed by any other team notwithstanding the fact that several teams are clearly in need of at least a backup Quarterback. It was at this point that the President got involved during a campaign speech in Alabama in September of last year during which Trump went after the players who were kneeling during the Anthem, calling them “sons of bitches” and calling on the league and/or the teams to fire or otherwise discipline players who don’t stand for the Anthem.

In response to this and the media storm it helped to create, the league, the NFL Players Association, and pretty much all the team owners voiced support for the protesting players. Indeed, in the weeks after the President’s speech, the protests expanded to a level that they had not seen before, with players from across the league either taking a knee during the Anthem or engaging in some other form as a way to show solidary with those players who chose to do so. It was during this period that Vice-President Pence walked out of an Indianapolis Colts game when some players knelt during the Anthem in what was obviously a staged photo opportunity by the White House to further stir the pot. Several weeks later, the league announced that it would not discipline players who continued to kneel during the Anthem, and polling in both September and October showed that most Americans opposed the position taken by the President.

In April, though, the controversy was revived when the N.F.L. announced a rule change stating that it would fine teams if any players declined to stand while on the field during the National Anthem, but left open the option that teams or individual players could choose to stay off the field during the Anthem. President Trump responded to this rule change by suggesting that people who don’t stand during the Anthem should ‘leave the country,” and with this morning’s Tweets, he makes it clear that he does not consider the option of staying off the field to be acceptable. Most recently, the controversy was fed yet again when the President revoked the invitation of the Philadelphia Eagles to visit the White House largely because a significant number of players announced that they would not be attending. Trump sought to make the issue about the Anthem protests, though, even though no member of the Eagles had taken a knee during the National Anthem during the 2017 season.

Previously, the President has always claimed, falsely, that the players were deliberately showing disrespect to the flag and the military, refusing to even acknowledge that they were clearly stating the reasons why they were engaging in what is undeniably a peaceful, respectful form of protest. More recently, Trump stated that if the players were concerned about individual cases they should bring them to his attention and suggested he might use his pardon and clemency powers to deal with it. This comment, though, ignores the reality of what the players are protesting. Certainly, part of the issue is the fact that there are people of color sitting in jails throughout the country based on charges clearly associated with their race, and this is part of what the players are protesting. Their cause, though, goes far beyond that and includes issues such as police shootings and the unequal treatment of African-Americans in general and African-American men specifically by law enforcement. These are issues that the right generally, and the Trump Administration particularly, has long downplayed and there’s no indication at all that this is going to change anytime soon. For that reason, Trump’s previous comments about being open to hearing from the players was clearly empty rhetoric, and this latest comment makes that clear.

The real reason for Trump to continue to press this issue even during the off-season is, of course rather obvious. While polling continues to show that most Americans do not support the President on the Anthem issue, that same polling shows that Republicans and conservatives continue to strongly support the President on this issue. Because of this, it’s clear that Trump intends to keep bringing this issue up between now and November because it riles up his hyperpatriotic base, the large majority of whom are, of course, white. This is just another example of that.

 

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Politicians, Race and Politics, Sports, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    “Spontaneous” as in FOX is doing a planned special broadcast from the WH driveway and Trump just happened to walk by “spontaneous”?

    Has anyone asked him yet how he intends to pardon Freddie Gray, TamirRice, Philando Castile, Walter Scott, etc., etc. Of course Trump wouldn’t recognize any of the long list of names.

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  2. teve tory says:

    his hyperpatriotic base

    Pseudopatriotic.

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  3. gVOR08 says:

    @teve tory:
    But hyperpartisan.

  4. MBunge says:

    And Mataconis continues to demonstrate he doesn’t understand the expression “living in your head rent free.”

    Mike

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  5. wr says:

    @MBunge: “And Mataconis continues to demonstrate he doesn’t understand the expression “living in your head rent free.””

    Wow. The last, desperate attempt of a troll when he’s got absolutely nothing to say.

    Nice of you to admit you’re doing nothing but trolling here.

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  6. TM01 says:

    RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACIST.

    15
  7. steve says:

    “hyperpatriotic”

    Should read unpatriotic. Protesting is about as American a value as there is. Remember the original Tea Party?

    Steve

  8. al Ameda says:

    @TM01:

    RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACIST.

    Nothing new here, really. Trump actually is racist, he’s demonstrated that regularly for over 30 years. As you know, he headed up a (yes, it was racist, or as you might say ‘RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACIST’) 3 year Birther investigation of Obama, intended to delegitimize Obama.

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  9. James Pearce says:

    Listen, I know it’s crazy, guys, but I think the players should take Trump up on his pardon scheme. Trump loves hanging out with athletes and he will hear them out. If he wants to review individual cases, there are plenty to suggest.

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  10. James Pearce says:

    Also his comments about “they’re making $15 million” hint at an idea that’s brewing in my mind for sometime. This idea of platforms, where some rich NFL player can “speak” for the powerless with some symbolic act, needs to be re-evaluated.

    Right, Chuck?

  11. Gustopher says:

    Totally off+topic, but the picture reminded me… we really need better tattoo technology.

    The fading dark gray doesn’t look right against brown skin. I’m not a fan of tattoos, in general, but…. If we could get a blacker, sharper black ink, those arm tattoos would look a lot better.

  12. Bob@Youngstown says:

    If they’re aggrieved, I’ll pardon them. I’ll get them out

    And I will bring others back from the dead.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    And Mataconis continues to demonstrate he doesn’t understand the expression “living in your head rent free.”

    Aren’t you supposedly black? Do you not have any sympathy for Kaepernick’s position? Or does living rent free in the Orange Toddler’s pants mean more to you…

    RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACIST.

    Is the purpose of this to indicate that you don’t think racism exists? Or that your hero isn’t a racist? The fact that you seem to downplay all of this leads to the conclusion that you too are probably a bigot, which ,of course, would explain your loyalty to your hero…making America white again…

    This idea of platforms, where some rich NFL player can “speak” for the powerless with some symbolic act, needs to be re-evaluated.

    So what’s the cutoff? Must players make less than a million? $500,000? How little must they make before it’s ok for them to make political statements…

  14. Kathy says:

    Was this form of protest effective at drawing attention to the issue, or getting the authorities to change their behavior?

    Regardless, when a protest becomes about the protest itself, it can’t be effective. And as far as it helps energize the Trump base, it would be better to deny the Cheeto this tool

    Kaepernick and his colleagues protested for a noble cause, and a problem that needs urgent and persistent attention. But the point of a protest is to effect positive change, not the protest itself. This mode of protest is not working, they need to find one that will.

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  15. Bruce Henry says:

    @Kathy: How are these protests “not working?” The bus boycotts, lunch-counter sit-ins, freedom rides, and mass marches of the 50s and 60s didn’t work either — until they did.

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  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Because wrapping oneself in the flag while sh!tting on the Constitution is the American thing to do.

  17. Mikey says:

    @Bruce Henry:

    The bus boycotts, lunch-counter sit-ins, freedom rides, and mass marches of the 50s and 60s didn’t work either — until they did.

    Exactly this. People today seem to have this perception the civil rights movement went very quickly. It didn’t. In reality, there were five years between the Montgomery bus boycott and the Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins, and another four years between the sit-ins and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Pearce:

    This idea of platforms, where some rich NFL player can “speak” for the powerless with some symbolic act, needs to be re-evaluated.

    So a guy who grew up in an East St Louis ghetto where drugs and violence are facts of everyday life, where police violence is one’s only experience with the police, where hunger is alleviated by school lunch programs and schools are filled with 30 yr old textbooks but somehow someway he makes it all the way to the NFL, and most likely is making a few hundred thou in a career that only lasts 3 years… Or let’s say he’s making millions for a decade…

    All of a sudden he needs to STFU because his entire life experience is rendered void of meaning by a few dollars?

    That is the most idiotic thing I have read in quite some time.

  19. Mikey says:

    @Mikey: Also, the bus boycott went for over a year, and the lunch counter sit-ins for six months.

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy:

    Regardless, when a protest becomes about the protest itself, it can’t be effective. And as far as it helps energize the Trump base, it would be better to deny the Cheeto this tool
    ……..
    But the point of a protest is to effect positive change, not the protest itself. This mode of protest is not working, they need to find one that will.

    You know they said the same thing about and to Martin Luther King?

  21. teve tory says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    That is the most idiotic thing I have read in quite some time.

    In my experience it’s best to skip a select few trolls.

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @teve tory: I don’t consider James to be a troll. Sometimes tiresome? Yes. Probably more often than not. But he has brought up some good points from time to time.

  23. teve tory says:

    You can do whatever you want, but his shtick is he’s a troll who pretends not to be. This site is much better when I don’t read him, or JKB, or Bunge, or 1 or 2 others.

  24. Michael Reynolds says:

    @MBunge:

    And Mataconis continues to demonstrate he doesn’t understand the expression “living in your head rent free.”

    What a stupid phrase. Are you capable of a thought that isn’t a Twitter meme?

  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @teve tory:

    You can do whatever you want,

    Well thank you, I’m glad I have your permission.

  26. Kathy says:

    @Bruce Henry:

    How are these protests “not working?”

    Most people don’t know what they’re about, the TV crews don’t say so when they happen, and right now they’re helping the wrong side.

    The issue of police brutality and outright murder of black people deserves attention and, most of all, positive action. But if this type of protest ins’t helping, if in fact it’s hurting the cause by energizing its opponents, then it’s folly to continue it.

    try something else. A Black Lives Matter banner during the anthem, perhaps, or carrying photos of the victims. The latter can be seen as helping to stand for the anthem and the flag those who no longer can do so.

  27. teve tory says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: You’re welcome 😛

  28. de stijl says:

    @TM01:

    RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACIST.

    People like TM01 say this because they see anti-racism as not a valid world view, but as a partisan PC tactic that shames him purposefully. Anti-racism is not really a true thing, you see, but it is only a partisan cudgel that the other side owns. That belief has no merit in itself. They see anti-racism not as a world view, but as a temporary tactic designed to shame him for temporary and partisan gain. He literally cannot see it as a thing people believe in and want to prevail: TM01 sees anti-racism as not valid and as an affront to his tribe and nothing more.

    On some level they know it is true, but that fact must never be acknowledged. It sucks, you know you are on the wrong side of history. You know you’re going to lose. Demography has doomed you and your kind. But you cannot acknowledge that. Pseudo-butch toughness doesn’t negate the fact that your power has vanished.