At a campaign rally for Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) in Huntsville, Alabama, President Donald Trump spoke for almost 90 minutes. During those 90 minutes, he touched on several topics and one of them was the NFL.
Trump said the reason for the drop in NFL ratings is protests of the national anthem and the league being too “soft.”
The NFL’s ratings have been down slightly, but not as much as Trump seems to think. Through just three weeks of the season, it’s hard to draw conclusions about the state of the NFL’s ratings. However, including all its regional games, CBS actually had higher ratings this weekend compared to week three last year, according to ESPN.
The president is also oversimplifying the issue. The ratings drop has been attributed to a number of aspects, including Hurricane Irma’s effects on several major TV markets.
The list of players protesting the national anthem has continued to grow since Colin Kaepernick began taking a knee last season to protest against police violence, specifically against African-Americans and people of color. A common critique is that these players are politicizing sports when they don’t need to, but sports have been politicized since before 2016.
One of the most famous sports figures ever was also one of the most political: Muhammed Ali. Ali was famous for fighting racial discrimination and protesting the Vietnam War. Forty years later, most people realized Ali was fighting for a good thing. The national anthem protests might have a similar effect.
In his speech, Trump said any player who kneels during the national anthem should be fired on the spot. But he can’t call for people to be fired just because he disagrees with their point of view. Many of the players who kneel are using it as a way to vocalize an important issue while also providing outreach and contributions to charitable causes that help build relationships between young African-Americans and police.
Trump also called the league “soft” the same day most of the football world was talking about the release of a brain study of former New England Patriots tight end, Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez was convicted of murder in 2015 and committed suicide in prison in May. As many people suspected, Hernandez had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
CTE is a brain disease caused by repeated head trauma. Trump is calling for the league to allow “harder hits” while most football players are worried that after their career they won’t even be able to speak.
Football is a dangerous game and Trump is calling for the NFL to make it even more dangerous. Advocating for athletes to receive personal harm doesn’t seem like something the president of the United States should be doing.
Trump’s history of attacking the NFL is long. From 1984 to 1985, Trump was the owner of the New Jersey Generals. The Generals were a part of the United States Football League (USFL).
After a series of missteps and mistakes — mostly a failed anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL that was led by Trump — the USFL folded.
If he failed running a team, Trump shouldn’t get a voice in how the NFL functions.
After his speech, like he so often does, Trump took to Twitter. He called out Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry. Curry said he wouldn’t go to the White House if the Warriors got invited, and after hearing this Trump “disinvited” Curry and the Warriors.
President Trump, you can’t disinvite someone if they’ve already declined the offer. That’s not how it works.
Trump continued his tweeting, writing “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 …”
I don’t really understand how making millions of dollars or being an athlete stops someone from having political opinions. If being rich meant someone couldn’t voice their ideas, Trump wouldn’t be the president of the United States. Athletes are people too, just because someone is famous doesn’t exclude them from being affected by world events.
In response to these statements from the president, NFL and NBA players have voiced their discontent with Trump’s words and his administration.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James called Trump a “bum,” and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman wrote “The behavior of the President is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. If you do not Condemn this divisive Rhetoric you are Condoning it!!”
President Trump, if you want athletes to mind their own business, mind your own.