On Friday, Donald Trump called players who kneel during the national anthem “sons of bitches” at a rally in Huntsville, Ala. Immediately, players, coaches and team owners hit back at Trump. Trump, in his war against athletes, also specifically called out Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry.
The Golden State Warriors, including Steph Curry, all said they would not attend the White House’s recognition of their championship. However, Trump exclusively tweeted about Curry, saying, “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating; therefore, invitation is withdrawn!” Many noted Curry had already declined the invitation, and therefore, he could not withdraw the invitation. Cleveland Cavilers star LeBron James quickly replied to Trump, saying, “U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going! So therefore, ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!” James’ tweet has already become one of the most liked and retweeted of all time.
The NFL replied to Trump’s comments about athletes in a memo, saying, “The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. 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 fully understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.” Trump replied, saying, “Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country. Tell them to stand!”
Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft sent out a statement on Trump’s comments, saying, “I am proud to be associated with so many players who make such tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities. I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal,” Kraft said. “Our players are intelligent, thoughtful, and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.”
Saturday night, America saw the first Major League Baseball player, Catcher Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland Athletics, take a knee during the national anthem. As suspected, Sunday’s slate of games saw not only many players kneeling, but most teams protesting the national anthem. Most teams stood arm in arm during the anthem, including the Jacksonville Jaguars in the early morning game in London, along with owner Shahid Kahn. Kahn is himself a Pakistani immigrant, a group persecuted by Trump and his supporters. The Pittsburgh Steelers stayed in the locker room during the national anthem to protest. The game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans saw both teams stay in the locker room during the anthem.
In primetime, on Sunday Night Football, just miles away from the White House in Landover, Md., players from the Washington Redskins were linked arm in arm, while players from the Oakland Raiders sat on the bench. The protests were that much more powerful with their proximity to the White House.
In an early morning tirade, Trump said, “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend! …NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”
Of course, Trump’s comments about NFL ratings are untrue. In fact, Sunday marked a presidential milestone: in the first 8 months of his Presidency, Trump has a 39% approval rating, much more important ratings than the NFL’s.
Trump’s disparaging comments on athletes have only unified and joined players and teams against him. However, as we have seen with most non-sensical statements by Trump, this probably serves as a distraction from the important issues, such as North Korea, Betsy DeVos ending Title XI protections for rape victims and Trump’s embarrassing comments, such as naming a made-up African nation at the UN. Perhaps the more important story surrounding Trump’s comments is how he criticized black athletes compared to his responses to Nazis, who he called “great people” and Nazi protesters “the other side” after Charlottesville.
The protests have stirred up opinions, but mostly brought attention to social issues, as Kaepernick set out to do in the first place.