Donald Trump took aim at NFL players who take a knee in protest during the national anthem and let them have one right between the eyes.
Trump was at a rally for Alabama Senator Luther Strange in Alabama when he took off after the NFL, the referees (“they are ruining the game”), and players “disrespecting the flag.”
We respect our flag. [Cheers and applause] Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of a b**** off the field right now? [Cheers and applause] Out! He’s fired! He’s fired! [Chanting “U.S.A.”]
You know, some owner’s gonna do that. He gonna say, that guy that disrespect our flag, he’s fired. That owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They are friends of mine, many of them. They will be the most popular person for a week. They will be the most popular person in the country because that’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for, ok? Everything that we stand for. And I know we have freedoms and we have freedom of choice and many, many different freedoms. But you know what? It is still totally disrespectful. When the NFL ratings are down massively, massively… the NFL ratings are down massively. The number one reason happens to be that they like watching what is happening with yours [uninteligible].
They like what’s happening. Because you know, today if you hit too hard, right, they hit too hard, 15 yards, throw him out of the game. They had that last week. I watched for a couple of minutes … two guys, just really beautiful tackle. Boom. 15 yards. The referree gets on television, his wife [unteligible] at home, she’s so proud of him. They’re ruining the game, right? There’re ruining the game. Hey look, that’s what they want to do. They want to hit. But it is hurting the game. But you know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they are playing our great national anthem. [Crowd booing] The only thing you can do better is if you see it, if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anyway.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that Trump’s comments showed a “lack of respect” for the players. And the union representing NFL players was none too happy either.
The head of the NFL Players Association, the union representing professional football players, said Saturday that the union “will never back down” from supporting players’ right to protest.
The statement follows President Trump saying Friday night that people should “pick up and leave” NFL games if players kneel as a form of protest during the national anthem.
“Whether or not [NFL commissioner] Roger [Goodell] and the owners will speak for themselves about their views on player rights and their commitment to player safety remains to be seen,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in a statement.
“This union, however, will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks,” he continued.
If I paid up to $150 for a ticket to an NFL game, I might think twice about leaving, even if I am disgusted by a protest against the national anthem.
A far more effective action would be a boycott of NFL advertisers. The increasingly political nature of professional sports in America won’t stop until we start hitting the teams where it hurts. Revenue from game tickets is only a fraction of the money received by teams in the league. The big bucks come from TV contracts signed by the league with the networks and shared by the franchises. Those contracts are so lucrative because advertisers are willing to pay top dollar for commercials on the broadcast.
Getting advertisers to pull their ads from NFL broadcasts would put pressure on the networks to get the league to crack down on this nonsense. As Trump mentioned, the NFL is already bleeding viewers. Even a modest boycott might scare advertisers to take action.
Several NFL players just sent a letter to the commissioner demanding an “activist month” to support the anthem protesters. So far, the league has caved in to player demands that there be no recriminations for players who take part in the protests. But will the NFL go on record actually supporting these players?
If they do, we may witness the self-destruction of an iconic American institution.