In an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, President Trump said the NFL could have avoided its current woes if they had simply enforced their rules from the beginning.
“I watched Colin Kaepernick and I thought it was terrible. And then it got bigger and bigger and started mushrooming. And frankly the NFL should have suspended him for one game and he would have never done it again,” Trump said Wednesday night. “They could have then suspended him for two games and they could have suspended him again if he did it a third time, for the season, and you would never have had a problem. But I will tell you – you cannot disrespect our country, our flag, our anthem, you cannot do that.”
With Vice President Mike Pence’s sensational walkout on Sunday and subsequent tweets by the president this week, Trump has continued to throw fuel on the fire of the NFL anthem controversy. Though he has been savagely attacked by the liberal media for his role in “dividing” fans over the protests – with some going as far as to accuse Trump of racism – the president has not backed down from his position.
While some conservative Trump supporters, like Rush Limbaugh, are uncomfortable with the President of the United States trying to force his will on a private organization, the fact is that this is a cultural battle he cannot lose. Trump isn’t saying the government is going to step in and start penalizing players for their protests; he’s simply standing up for the American flag and using the bully pulpit to shame these protesters for their disgraceful actions. We fail to see anything wrong with that.
Well, that’s not entirely true. We do have one issue, which is that Trump’s comments are, unfortunately, likely to have the opposite of their intended effect. The more the president digs his heels in, the more the football players are likely to do the same. The NFL front office and the owners could put a swift end to this, but at this point, they are terrified at the backlash such a mandate would have on team morale. In an interview, Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Gerald McCoy said there would be league-wide problems if the NFL tried to force players to stand for the anthem.
“I don’t think guys are going to like it,” McCoy said on a podcast. “I think it’s going to be an uproar if that is to happen, because you’re basically taking away a constitutional right to freedom of speech. If guys want to have a peaceful protest, I don’t think it’s right to take that away.”
Well then, the players – and the NFL as a whole – will have to face the consequences of their free expression. Those consequences won’t come from Washington; they’ll come from the millions of NFL fans who refuse to support an organization that disrespects the United States. If kneeling for the anthem is that important that you’re willing to sacrifice hundreds of millions of dollars…well, by all means, kneel away.