Another Trump Problem: The NFL
Tuesday, August 21st, was an extraordinary day for the Trump Presidency. The President’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws, and Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, was convicted on tax and bank fraud charges.
You would think that President Trump has enough problems to deal with, and that maybe he would concern himself with the fact that Tuesday was a historic day in America’s history. The day presented a defining and incremental legal moment for campaign management, the Republican Party, and Trump himself. Should keep anybody busy, right?
Wrong. The following day, President Trump proceeded as normal and took the time to launch a petition against ESPN’s national anthem policy. Recently, the network decided not to broadcast the playing of America’s national anthem as they televise Monday Night Football. On Wednesday, Trump called the network “spineless” in an email. This email asks supporters to sign a petition demanding that ESPN televise the national anthem before every football game.
Before every National Football League game, the national anthem is always played, and the players and crowd are asked to stand up and put their hands over their hearts; however, this is not always televised. Often, networks play commercials during this time, and although ESPN did show the national anthem three times last season, it is not alone in its recent decision: CBS and FOX are also not planning on regularly airing the anthem, and haven’t for the past several years.
Typically, no one really cares whether the anthems are televised or not. ESPN is even converting back to an old company policy. However, the protests that have gripped the NFL over the last several seasons have sparked national attention and debate. Players have been kneeling during the anthem in protest against police brutality and racial inequality. Started by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016’s preseason, the protests spread to other players and have since effected every team. Individual players, politicians, fans, franchise owners, and coaches have all weighed in on whether they believe players should be required to stand as the anthem is played.
America loves football, and the country really doesn’t like to mix its venues of escapism and enjoyment with real-world problems. No matter how you feel, and it can be difficult to sort out, you have to acknowledge that Kaepernick really started something.
It’s been two years. The NFL protests are still a hot issue. Trump has made his opinion clear. In September 2017, Trump tweeted that players who kneel during the anthem should be fired. In the following games, more players kneeled than ever before. In October 2017, he said that the NFL’s decision not to force players to stand for the anthem was disrespectful to the country.
Although Trump should be concerning himself with his legal woes, apparently ESPN’s decision is an offense that demands immediate action. This isn’t the first time he has disagreed with the network in particular; he has a history of attacking ESPN, on Twitter, of course. His email on Wednesday took things a step further, as he called on his supporters to make a demand of the network.
“If ‘America’ is too offensive for anyone in our country, then what are they doing in America?” Our President questions in his email, in typical Trump fashion. “I’m calling on you to join me in denouncing this SPINELESS surrender to the politically correct liberal mob.” He says he signed the petition, and underneath the message is an area where others can sign their own name.
Make of it what you will. Perhaps the President doesn’t know that ESPN is not the only network that has decided not to air the anthem, and that this is a traditional action that follows company policy. Perhaps he also doesn’t realize that the NFL protests are exactly about being offended, and are about expressing discontent with the country– which is a perfectly fine, and necessary, attitude to have.
The NFL is currently in the throes of the preseason. Regular rosters have not been cemented; quarterbacks are still being debated; rookies are still getting their feet wet. But Trump has already made clear his opinion. With weeks to go before the regular season, our President has the national anthem, and the NFL protests that are associated with it, on his mind. He could be applying the same kind of attention and action toward addressing what just occurred with his former lawyer and former campaign manager; but that is not the kind of President that America voted into office.
Laura Myers is a Lead Contributor at the Daily Lead.