There are clearly more pressing national and worldwide priorities at this moment than NFL protests, and yet the President of the United States continues to publicly focus on the peaceful demonstrations that ran throughout the league Sunday and Monday.
Tuesday morning brought four more NFL-related tweets, including one in which President Donald Trump called for a “rule” forbidding players from kneeling during the anthem:
Earlier in the morning, Trump seized on television ratings, a recurring Twitter obsession, and the Dallas Cowboys‘ decision to take a knee in unison prior to—not during—the anthem.
The president has now tweeted about the NFL 21 different times in the last three days. And as is very often the case with Trump’s tweets, clarification and correction is necessary.
Ratings for this week’s games were not “way down”; in fact, every measure indicates that ratings for Week 3 would be up, particularly once the highly popular Cowboys’ appearance on “Monday Night Football” is factored in. (We’ll leave it to you to decide whether there is some measurable slice of the American public tuning in for exactly 90 seconds to watch the anthem, then tuning out in disgust.)
The Cowboys knelt in unison before the anthem was even played. And here’s where things get sticky. There was indeed booing. (Put aside the president’s contention that it was the “loudest” ever. We’ve heard louder booing at children’s plays.) Some of it could have been directed at the Cowboys as the opposing team, but surely some of the booing was because the Cowboys were simply taking a knee in the first place.
Why? Why was there so much “great anger”? This wasn’t during the anthem. This didn’t disrespect the flag.
This didn’t alter the game or force anyone to do anything other than simply observe a silent, brief demonstration of unity. So why boo, unless you’re upset with players and owners showing any semblance of humanity at all? And if that’s the case, that says far more about the fans who boo than the NFL or its players.
The president also conveniently sidestepped the fact that protests exploded across the NFL only after he insulted the league and its players over and over again across a 72-hour period. While the initial protests focused on bringing awareness to police brutality, the Week 3 protests, and statements from virtually every NFL team, were literally a defiant, definitive rebuke of Trump himself.
Incite rage, stoke division, fire up the base, then wonder why everyone’s so angry. It’s a winning formula for the president in 2017, and this week, it just happened to be the NFL’s turn.