Even as Puerto Rico suffers under hurricane-related devastation, North Korea continues to ratchet up nuclear tensions and Congress works to debate healthcare reform, President Donald Trump continues to make NFL protests a key point of his public messaging to the nation.
Trump wedged himself into the ongoing protest debate, in which several players have protested racial injustice during the national anthem, when he sharply criticized the protesters in a fiery Friday night Alabama campaign rally. In response, hundreds of NFL players demonstrated on Sunday, and virtually every NFL team released a statement on the matter, some directly rebuking the president.
Trump doesn’t take criticism well, and has spent the last several days firing back at the NFL over the course of more than two dozen tweets. Early Wednesday morning, he dragged Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones into the fray:
Spoke to Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys yesterday. Jerry is a winner who knows how to get things done. Players will stand for Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2017
Jones, along with the rest of the Cowboys, knelt prior to the anthem at Monday night’s game, but was standing for the anthem once it began playing. It’s unclear what the substance of Trump’s conversation was from this tweet, but one interpretation would be that the president was offering directives to the owner of a private corporation about how to handle his employees’ speech.
The concept of “free speech” gets used incorrectly about 99 percent of the time on the internet, but if the government is attempting to influence Americans’ speech in any way, this would very much fall under the category of violating one’s right to free speech.
Regardless, Trump continues to beat the drum against the NFL; it’s a concept of America-first-and-America-only patriotism that plays well for his base. It’s worth noting, however, that the players are protesting racial strife and police brutality; they’re not protesting the flag, the military, or America itself, despite how some have framed the issue.
NFL fans can be forgiven for being weary of the entire anthem debate. But it continues to dominate headlines, in large part because the White House continues to stick to sports.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
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