President Trump on Wednesday amped up his criticism of NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. In an interview with “Fox & Friends” that aired Thursday, Trump moved past his most common complaint of disrespect and cast peacefully protesting players as threats to their billionaire employers.
The comment came as Trump tried to explain why owners aren’t putting an end to the demonstrations: “I think they are afraid of their players, if you want to know the truth, and I think it’s disgraceful.”
Trump claims his obsession with these protests has nothing to do with race. That was always a lie though, and Trump’s coded language, making peaceful black demonstrators out to be dangerous threats to their wealthy white bosses, reveals it.
The NFL is already pushing back against Trump’s claim, calling it inaccurate. Players and owners are not feuding, NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said Thursday. They’re united. “I think [the owners] made it clear they support our players, but also support our country, the national anthem, the flag — all of the things some have suggested we don’t,” Lockhart said.
Trump’s desperate attempt to pit players against ownership is just not working. Not because owners are “afraid” of players, but because they know their success has more to do with the men on the field than the guy in the White House. That’s why over the weekend some of them shuffled down from the gilded luxury boxes and took on the field with their players. In the process, they also turned a demonstration about the grotesque and specific problem of police brutality, into a meaningless display of “unity.”
The irony of Trump’s ceaseless attacks on the NFL is that rather than make life harder on ownership, he provided them an opening. After weeks of players protesting and owners not knowing how to respond, Trump made it easy for everyone to unite against him, a position that most Americans can get on board with.
How is the White House responding to that? By taking the racial subtext of Trump’s complaints and making it text. First there was Trump’s comments about owners being “afraid” and then Thursday Sarah Sanders laid it bare, admitting that the issue is “pretty black and white.”