Chief Opinions Editor
This past weekend, Donald Trump was on everyone’s mind. Trump had finally invaded the one area of pop culture that we thought was impervious to politics: professional sports. This past week Donald Trump took his first jab at the world of sports when he uninvited the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors from visiting the White House, a tradition for any major sports champion. Trump tweeted Saturday morning, @realDonaldTrump: “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!” This obviously drew ire from athletes from across the world of sports, most notably from NBA superstar LeBron James, who tweeted, @KingJames: “U [sic] 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!”
Trump, however, was not done attacking sports for the day. Saturday afternoon he fired off a string of tweets regarding the recent protests of the National Anthem that have gone on periodically over the past year or so. He tweeted, @realDonaldTrump: “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!” This caused one of the weirdest Sundays of football that I have ever experienced. All of a sudden, every team had planned a protest for the National Anthem. Several teams remained in the locker room, several teams kneeled together, and several teams took knees together. Whatever a team ended up doing, the effect was lost on me. What we ultimately ended up with on Sunday was a bunch of different protests each as meaningless and insincere as the one before it.
I was listening to the beginning of the Patriots game on the radio on Sunday afternoon and the WEEI color commentator, Scott Zolak, commented on how loud the booing was during the protests at Gillette Stadium. These protests are legitimately upsetting people. Just this week, AT&T, who owns DirecTV, began offering refunds to their Sunday NFL Ticket subscriptions if someone claims they’re canceling because of the protests. The President probably realizes how unpopular these protests are with his base and that speaking out against them will score him major political points.
The NFL had a major opportunity to speak out against Trump and defend their right to protest this weekend. But instead it merely doubled down on Anthem protests and made no overt messages about Trump. In my opinion, these current protests are trying to straddle the line between “sticking to sports,” the old adage that athletes should steer clear of politics, and defending themselves against a president who says they should be fired if they protest how they like. There is no overarching ideology behind these protests. They just seem to be driven by a frustration or unhappiness with the President that he spoke out against them. The shots of Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones and Jaguar’s owner Shad Khan standing in protest on the sidelines is great. But ultimately, these are the very same owners that still refuse to give Colin Kaepernick a job, despite the incredibly poor play from some of the league’s QBs. Ultimately, these protests and the letters written by owners against Donald Trump are merely for PR. They don’t care about the player’s right to protest. Khan and Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft are both personal friends and campaign donors to Donald Trump. If the right to protest was protected by owners, Kaepernick wouldn’t be blacklisted by NFL teams. I ultimately struggle to applaud the league for their protests to protect free speech while Colin Kaepernick is still struggling to find a job.