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As Long as We Remember...

June 13, 2018

Trumping the National Football League

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Look, there’s no doubt that President Donald Trump brings out the best and the worst in each of us, depending on one’s ideology.


He has a knack for issuing his early morning Tweet storms in such a manner that they step on his news cycles, good or bad. Past presidential administrations have professional messaging strategies run by professional staff. This time it’s different.


You see, in TrumpWorld, there’s simply no one better than Mr. Trump at spreading the Gospel according to Him. His staff is relegated to reading and reacting to his instant social media messaging. That might not be an issue normally, but this is far from normal.


The national news media is virulently anti-Trump that they comb through all of his words, taken in-and-out of context, to find a hint of scandal, mystery or just confused syntax in order to launch their on-air tirades.


He gives them plenty of ammunition, but even if he didn’t, they’d find something, or they’d just make it up.


All through last year’s National Football League (NFL) season, Mr. Trump declared a culture war on football players who chose to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem. In fact, the more players who protested, the louder Trump’s critique grew. Americans sympathetic to the Trump-eted message boycotted live football games as well as the broadcasts of NFL games.


Last season saw historic lows in cable ratings for the NFL. Clearly, the Trump message resonated with the people.


Longtime fans see some humor in this whole rigmarole.


NFL players, as a group, haven’t ever stood still and rendered honors to the flag during the Star Spangled Banner. They’ve fussed, fidgeted, stretched, spit and fretted. They’ve prayed, played and otherwise worried about the contest to come. Thanks to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, this past season added a whole new protest dynamic to the pre-game ritual.


Now, players, who feel they don’t see a national commitment to social justice, take direct protest action during the anthem, by kneeling, sitting, raising fists, turning their backs, and/or bowing their heads.


This action, supposedly raising the ire of military vets and first responders, also caught the eye and attention of the Nation’s First Fan. To him, this act of civil disobedience represents a completely unacceptable form of protest. He, himself, encouraged fans who shared his outrage to avoid the games.


It all came to a head when the Philadelphia Eagles franchise won the Super Bowl to cap their historic season. Traditionally, this meant an invite to the White House for the winning team, and photo op on the south lawn of the White House.


The Eagles did the unthinkable. They beat the most impressive franchise in recent NFL history, the New England Patriots.


They did something else, too. They never knelt (not a single player), either as individuals or as a whole team, during the National Anthem.


There are a few vocal social justice warriors on the Eagles. In fact, there are a few very vocal activists. Those players, and several of their teammates sympathetic to their arguments, had agreed in advance that they didn’t plan to travel to Washington for the traditional ceremony.


This idea, that a large number of players were opting out of the White House trip, apparently offended Mr. Trump so deeply that he withdrew the invitation to the owner and the whole team, despite evidence that a number of players were excited to come and meet him.


And he announced it on Twitter, his preferred avenue for communication.


It’s clearly his prerogative, so he broke no law or regulation with his petulant response. Clearly an ego move, this came off as Mr. Trump being angry about the full team not wanting to share the lawn with him. The Trump team says this isn’t about the song, it’s about the Eagles players who refused to travel to the White House.


That’s bovine excrement, pure and simple. This is a president who just can’t stand being upstaged, no matter about what or by whom.


When it comes to the core controversy, maybe the best thing to do is to skip the expectation that professional athletic contests involve the national anthem altogether. Short of that, how about we abandon the whole obligatory White House tour and visit trip by national champion sports teams?


As a military veteran, I think this whole controversy is monumentally stupid.


Heaven knows the National Basketball League (NBA) champion Golden State Warriors swore off their visit even before they won the best-of seven series with the Cleveland Cavaliers.


Let’s just let this nonsense fade into political/sports history.


Players should play. Patriots can render honors. And politicians can be political.


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