About NFL protests, I ask: Mr. President, what are you doing?

President Donald J. Trump in Huntsville, Ala. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

ATHENS — You have no idea how I voted in the last Presidential election. You can try to guess, but there’s a good chance you’ll be wrong. I like to think I’ve kept political comment to a minimum over my almost 40 years in this business, and not because I don’t have beliefs. (I do.) But there’s a reason these missives show up in the sports section. I write about sports.

Sometimes, though, sports overflow their banks. Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the National Anthem was one time. I wrote about that. North Carolina’s Bathroom Bill was another. I wrote about that, too. But even those few times when I’ve stepped outside my nominal jurisdiction, I’ve tried not to be partisan. I’m not here to tell you how to vote. You have the same privilege I do. You’re free to exercise it as you choose.

But here I sit in Sanford Stadium, and I’m thinking not about Georgia and Mississippi State and the color and pageantry of college football. I’m wondering what impelled the most powerful man in the world to pick a fight even he cannot win. I’m wondering if the President of the United States of America really wants to be the President of a United States of America.

In the past few hours, our President has ripped Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. Our President then ripped any NFL player – not just Kaepernick, currently unemployed – who doesn’t stand at attention for the National Anthem. Quoth our President: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired! He’s fired!’ ”

I realize the flag is a heated issue. My dad was in the first American unit to liberate Dachau. My son-in-law was stationed in Afghanistan. But – sorry to get trite here – the reason Americans go to war is because they believe the American Way is an ideal worth preserving. A pillar of that American Way is the freedom of speech, which carries with it the right to protest. This isn’t an original thought, but if some folks hadn’t started chucking tea into Boston Harbor, our anthem would be, “God Save The Queen.”

Regarding this President, the word “unprecedented” has been invoked so often as to have become as common as “the” and “and.” But this really was new – a sitting American President taking on the most popular American athlete (Curry) and the most popular American sport (pro football). Teddy Roosevelt called being President “a bully pulpit,” and certainly we all pay attention – whether we like it or not – when this President speaks/Tweets, but NBA and NFL players have an even bigger pulpit. We watch their games. We pay to see them perform. We buy their merchandise. We don’t really know them, but we like to think we do.

It’s one thing to goad a North Korean dictator – maybe not a great thing, but a different thing. I cannot for the life of me see the percentage in going after some of the most recognized American citizens for having the courage of their convictions. Maybe you disagree with the Athem protests. That’s your right. But it’s their right to do it. Maybe you wish it weren’t. But, borrowing from John Mellencamp, ain’t that America?

This is how crazy our world has gotten: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who often comes across as a ninny, offered a statement in rebuttal that sounded Rushmore-ready: “The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture.”

And what is our President doing? Playing to his base? We note that the fire-the-kneeling-bums speech was delivered in Huntsville, Ala. At last check, Alabama folks like their college football. Some of those collegians become professionals. One was the NFL MVP in 2015. One plays wideout for the Atlanta Falcons. If either takes a knee before tomorrow’s games – not saying either will, just posing a hypothetical – do they become fire-worthy bums?

This President became President by not caring what anybody who wasn’t a supporter thought of him. In eight months and three days on the job, this President has dared any non-supporter to cast a kind thought his way. Sometimes sports becomes more than sports: Jesse Owens in Berlin, Muhammad Ali before the Supreme Court, Tommie Smith and John Carlos in Mexico City. This President just ensured that this has become such a time.

As LeBron James Tweeted, “He’s now using sports as the platform to try to divide us.” We say again: Our President is supposed to be the President of a United States of America. He seems bent on making it anything but.

Reader Comments 0

146 comments
kutzukid
kutzukid

You took sides with your headline...You the mainstream press is part of the problem, condoning thier actions demeaning the flag and those that died so those millionaires have the right to defile it just to get on camera... it should have been "NFL what are you doing".  Like the NFL, you the press needs us, we dont need you

subsurfco
subsurfco

All I can say is what about the fans?  Who cares what the President did or said?  The players, owners and teams have callously forgotten the fans that week in week out support them.  These same fans wore uniforms, went overseas, some of us lost friends and loved one and WE, not the President, want to know why WE weren't considered at all.  We all talk about our teams in the squad bay, on the ship or sub, in the flight room, on patrol, on the beat, on the job, in the ER, just about anywhere we all do and have done our jobs.


The show of unity, the silence of some, the decision of others to even so up for the National Anthem just shows how far detached the teams are from the fans.  We burn tickets, jersey and boycott games and the teams respond with "it's not about offending you".  But it is, you must see that.  We wear and wore that same flag, we buried our friends under it.  You chose to listen to loudest person in the room instead of the people that have always been there to cheer you on.


Now, your stadiums are quieter.


We are waiting for our apology.  Be men and step up.  Don't listen to those yelling the loudest on either side, but to those of us that have yelled, cheered, cussed and pushed you and your predecessors through many bad years.  This isn't about race, it's about doing the right thing for the right reasons for the right people - your fans.

candlin14
candlin14

All I can say is from a Business Decision standpoint, the NFL is making a bad choice. I am not going to support either side because in all honesty I just like watching football. I don't know any of the players so I can not comment on where they came from, what lifestyle they grew up in, or what they wish to accomplish.


From a dollars and cents standpoint, I find it hard to believe the NFL is making the right choice. I find it extremely hard to believe that they would put their eggs into one basket, known as the Kaepernick Basket. The man does not have a job right now and the consensus was overwhelmingly in favor of opposition for CK. Why would the NFL now back the same man they have black balled from the league (if thats what you want to call it). I for one think his talent alone kept him off a roster, not the behavior. 


My father is a retired Colonel and my brother is a 2nd lieutenant. I just spent week one with my brother at Soldier Field and we went to the ND vs UGA game the day before. We love football and at this point, we pay to watch football. The 3 minutes leading up to the game will not stop me from watching but I will say, if there is one dollar affected in one Owners wallet from this decision, they will be jumping ship!!!

Bug
Bug


this is a no winner....I agree the president should have kept his mouth shut.....but I do agree with what he said. the 53 players on each team making 500 grand plus a year would do better to donate their time and MONEY towards these problems. Either that or how about this, QUIT give up your passport and move to a Country where people are treated more fairly than the United States.


Pistol
Pistol

Hey Mark, why not write about the NFL hypocrisy instead of your bias?  I have listened to Roger Goodell and most owners support the players 100%, with comments such as "solidarity," "stand behind them," "we support their right to protest," etc. etc. which makes it very hard to stop laughing. Where was all this support when Colin Kaepernick was trying to sign with one of their teams? He certainly has the talent to be a backup QB. Its absolutely hilarious to watch these owners and Goodell come out with all their BS about supporting protesters, etc, and at the same time blackball CK. Kneeling during the anthem is supported by the NFL as free speech. So last year when the Cowboys wanted to wear a sticker on their helmets in memory of 5 assassinated Dallas police officers, what did the NFL have to say? They disallowed it. Note that most organizations (NFL, UC Berkeley, etc.) love to promote "free speech", but only as long as that speech agrees with their own particular beliefs.

Tommy Lee Maddox
Tommy Lee Maddox

Millionaires disrespecting the Flag and the Country. Thanks for freeing up my Sunday afternoons.

Horstkotte
Horstkotte

Wrong, the President is winning this one 56 to 35 so far.  It doesn't matter whether it's sports or not--  don't diss the flag.  Too many died for it so you have the freedoms you have.  Your rights end where others begin.


Frankie1221
Frankie1221

I think there are more effective ways to protest . I don't see anyone standing up for the violence outside of police shooting black men.

Truth of the matter more whites are shot by police than blacks. So black lives matter where are you now. Why aren't you standing up for the gun violence that plagued big cities in the US. Black on black white on white and all other combinations of violence. Domestic violence etc.....

Hypocrites......

RoseUp
RoseUp

"A pillar of that American Way is the freedom of speech, which carries with it the right to protest." Yes, the players have a right to speak their mind. But the president doesn't? Isn't he also an American with the same rights?

JOHNROFRANO
JOHNROFRANO

Years ago Terrance Moore wrote an article criticizing the lack of black players in major league baseball and calling the owners bigots. I wrote and asked him if he was watching the same game that I was and he wrote back saying, in effect, that he meant American blacks, not Latin Blacks. I then wrote back again and suggested that he was the bigot, discriminating against Latin blacks by minimizing them. He wrote back, didn't disagree and said that he wanted to create controversy.  You have mellowed over the years but you are out of bounds talking politics. Because you have a bully pulpit, are your actions  any different than those of  the Dixie Chicks, Colin Kaepernick, and any one else telling me what I should believe because they believe it? Stick to sports my friend and we will all be better off.


BaronDeKalb
BaronDeKalb

@JOHNROFRANO Bradley IS sticking to sports - politics intruded on it. Maybe Trump should stick to politics and leave sports alone. But I guess you're ok with crossing that line. Btw, what does T. Moore have to do with any of this other than you didn't like him or his bias? (An opinion I actually share.) 

Marty McFlyball
Marty McFlyball

Hello Mark my take,

1) My guess ..you didn't vote for Hillary or Donald.

2) It is the employer's decision (NFL) as to how employees should act while at work.

3) I think the majority of those kneeling could not express specifically why they are kneeling.

carterjoseph1950
carterjoseph1950

Trump cares only for himself. He is a master deflector, of changing the subject. Right now the Russia story is creeping up on him and he doesn't want us to think about it, nor does he. When it finally catches up to him, he will have nobody left to cover for him. He is so unfit for the job it is mind-boggling. He makes me ashamed for our country. 

candlin14
candlin14

@carterjoseph1950 

Do you realize that Mike Pence is FAR MORE CONSERVATIVE than Donald Trump? The extremely small chance of impeachment that you are hoping for would make you happy for a brief moment.

Buckley
Buckley

No class, just crass. That's our President. Our kids would be kicked out of school for all of the low class, race-baiting type of behavior he exhibits. Sad.

Reidtt
Reidtt

Sorry Mark. People work hard to pay for their tickets and just want to see a football game. Not the venue. SHow a little respect for our country, our flag and our veterans.

tyler_durden
tyler_durden

@Reidtt I'm a vet.  I say kneel all day.  I may not agree, but that's one of the pillars of a free society.  When the rich (trump) and powerful (trump) start squelching folks it's a short trip to a dictatorship.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

How about we fire someone who doesn't have a clue, is full of negativity, is not a role model for kids, and who wastes his time tweeting and making a fool of himself. You may be President; you are not God! I'd get fired for repeatedly texting during work hours.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Reidtt @RoadScholar Try to stay current. Besides President Obama has more class, ethics, and brains in the tip of his little finger than Trump has , period!

But obviously you have no character either!

Frankie1221
Frankie1221

Actually moron you didn't vote Obama out he was elected to 2 terms which is the maximum. Learn history before opening big mouth.

thialand
thialand

We are told by the self-righteous that we need to begin a "conversation about race and equality" in this country.  We've heard that cliche ad nauseam.   Now that we are having that discussion (President, included), one side doesn't like the manner in which conversation is taking place.


More to the point, one side wants the so-called conversation and to dictate the place, manner, tone and outcome of the conversation.  That's not a conversation, that's lecturing or, more to the point, whining.


Those protesting don't want a conversation nor a debate.  These people want surety of outcome without any responsibility on their part.    

Ric1957
Ric1957

One brick short of a full load. If he wasn't President it would be funny. 

TheTopWest
TheTopWest

I respect the players right to protest and exercise free speech.  Just not on my dime. When I pay for a ticket, whether a sporting event or some other form of entertainment I do not want to hear they political opinion.  I have never seen one of these entertainer's ask for mine or any other audience attendees opinion. 

TzuSung
TzuSung

I'll take Old Glory over any football players feelings any day. Good for Trump.

TGT88
TGT88

Your'e forgetting (or ignoring) Curry's comments on Friday. Trump didn't pick this fight, but he's not one to sit back and take it either--and doesn't he have that "right?" Not only are most Americans not fond of the unpatriotic actions (the National Anthem is not the moment to make a political statement) of filthy rich athletes, but many Americans are pleased that President Trump doesn't ignore the voluminous--and misguided--attacks from liberals in the entertainment industry. 

quickdigits
quickdigits

These black football players (I base this upon the photo) earn millions of dollars and have gotten full of themselves. Not standing for the National Anthem is a clear indication that they Despise the country which has given them the opportunity to Earn that much money! Still, they Disrespect Everything that this country stands for. I don't blame Trump for his stance on this type of behavior. I say, if these football players don't Like it here, they can leave.....Let 'em Try to earn the big bucks in India, or Africa or Pakistan, or Iraq, or anywhere Else for that matter.

Spartan74
Spartan74

@quickdigits These black football players worked long and hard to get to the top of their chosen profession. Nobody is giving them anything. They earned it and provide a service(entertainment) that we in this country value highly.

Their peaceful protest is not done on the field during play, by the way. The only time they take a knee then is when they are injured or exhausted, having given you, the fan, everything they have.

And don't fall back on the intellectually weak pronouncement that if they don't like it, they can leave. Can't the same be said to you? How much would you earn in Serbia, Bosnia and Bulgaria?


DanJohn
DanJohn

Free speech allows President Trump and anyone else to express his opinion. He shouldn't have used profanity as they were small children there and it shouldn't be used in public by the President. I found that part wrong. 


That said it's also fine for the players to protest. Personally I disagree with it but it is their right. We rarely as a nation take the time to  understand a dissenting opinion. In that regard we should at least respect the opinions of others and agree to disagree.  

Oldcamaro
Oldcamaro

I am a vet,my brother a Vietnam vet.I dislike all these cowardly draft dodgers who claim they love this country so much.Some of these people were the ones who burned flags,spit on Vietnam vets,etc. If they loved this country so,stop worrying about football players not standing for the anthem and get help for all the homeless vets.

JImmy4God
JImmy4God

Bradley voted for his boyfriend

lighteredknot
lighteredknot

I would place a large wager that Bradley voted for obama and Hillary.  It's not 1965, it is 2017. America has lowered the standards, since 1965,  and that is where it stands now. Soon be a muslim third world country, with this riff, raff.

Greg Benson
Greg Benson

@lighteredknot We've lowered the standards, all right.  When you refer to "riff, raff," do you mean the descendants of people your ancestors brought here in chains?

ElderSage
ElderSage

We Atlantans just gave Arthur Blank $1.2B to build a stadium. Now, he disrespects the flag and tells us to get over it. As far as I am concerned Arthur, you and your team can get the hell out of Atlanta.

Hinged
Hinged

@ElderSage  We gave him very little. The Hotel and Motel Tax in Atlanta provided the municipal share, and that's not coming from either your or my pocket. The NFL and Blank are in for about $900M of the $1.2. 

It's all about TV revenue. If you're mad, don't watch, and don't buy a ticket. Those are your rights, same as it is his right to protest for social justice.The flag stands for the fact that you can legally disrespect it. 

HotDawg
HotDawg

Do you even realize they are doing this in their workplace environment?

And asking Americans to agree with their nonsense. Keep the money flowing into their league, in other words

Freedom of speech does not carry over into the workplace without potential consequences for the employee. Or employer who condones such behavior.

So by default, the owners are condoning disrespectful behavior.

May the NFL keep losing ratings until they start sucking up to most of their patrons, who totally disagree with this disrespectful behavior.

Spartan74
Spartan74

@HotDawg So you and your colleagues don't discuss politics, sports, or what happened on Game of Thrones the other night during work hours? Such discipline is to be lauded.

MurphysPaw
MurphysPaw

@HotDawg Isn't trump also doing this in his workplace environment as a representative of an entire country that I served to preserve the right to peaceful protest? I may not agree with them, but I do support them.

tyler_durden
tyler_durden

I can't fathom how bumper sticker patriots can blindly follow cheetoh Jesus.

I'm a vet, I fought for  the rights for everyone (including the orange wonder) to have free speech.  I don't think you can get any more American than peacefully protesting the government.   That's how our country started after all.  I may not agree with them, but it's fine if they kneel.

What isn't fine is this draft dodging trust fund baby masquerading as some kind of died in the wool patriot.  He isn't.  He is an opportunist.  And he is using this dumb issue to get people all riled up and distracted from the fact that 1) he isn't going to pass the health care law (Thanks J. McCain).  2) his moron in Alabama is going to lose (to another moron).  and 3) he, his family, and his campaign sold out our country to the Russians so he could win an election.  If you don't see that, i got nothing for you.

lighteredknot
lighteredknot

@tyler_durden Heck of a lot better that DT be there, than your pseudo-savant communist muslim obama, and the lying incompetent, corrupt Hillary. You have nothing for many. You can primarily thank liberal political correctness for North Korea and Iran being with short distance of beginning nuclear WWIII. Just parrot out that lugubrious liberal crap.