President Donald Trump refuses to let the issue of protests during the national anthem prior to NFL games go. Despite the continued and far more pressing issues of the raging wildfires in northern California, the devastation of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and ever-escalating tension with North Korea, the president remains committed to keeping the protests front and center.
The NFL has said they will consider adjusting the current rule and figure out how to proceed in the future, and in the face of backlash and what they feel was a misunderstanding, released a joint statement with the NFLPA insisting no change had been made to the current rule.
On Wednesday night, during an interview on Fox News with Sean Hannity, Trump gave his thoughts on how the NFL could have nipped the protest issue in the bud with regards to how they should have handled Colin Kaepernick.
“We watched Colin Kaepernick, and I thought it was terrible,” Trump said. “And then it got bigger and bigger and started mushrooming. Frankly, the NFL, should’ve suspended him for one game and he would’ve never done it again. They could’ve suspended him again for two games and then suspended him if he did it a third time for the season and you never would’ve had a problem.”
Trump seems to fail to understand that, without a rule in place requiring players to stand, the grounds for any suspension would have been extremely flimsy and likely would have led to a swift legal battle with the NFLPA.
Beyond that, he both underestimates Kaepernick’s commitment to the cause — he is currently out of a job because he wouldn’t back down — and that of other NFL players. We’ve seen the response from NFL players to Kaepernick being kept out of the league, and had he been suspended there would have undoubtedly been a significant number of players that would have come to Kaepernick’s defense and demonstrated in his absence.
The NFL has found itself at the heart of a battle over racial inequality, police brutality, the perceived necessity of patriotism, and a president seemingly always desperate to rally his base of voters to his side of an issue. The NFL never wanted to be here, but has only itself to blame. It chose to make a spectacle out of the national anthem each game, which inherently brought politics into sports whether they realized it or not.
Now it’s here and the league finds itself in a no-win situation, struggling to figure out which side to please and, in doing so, has managed to anger both.