NEWS DESK: Donald Trump is really going for the NFL’s jugular.
While juggling all of the difficult tasks associated with being president, Mr Trump has found the time to start a war with the most successful professional sports league in the US — and now says that the business will go to “hell” if it doesn’t crack the whip and force its players to end their protests of police brutality, reported The Independent.
“You cannot have people disrespecting our national anthem, our flag, our country and that’s what they’re doing,” Mr Trump said. “In my opinion the NFL has to change. Or you know what’s going to happen? Their business is going to go to hell.”
Mr Trump was not referring to the common belief that American football needs to change to attract youth participation in the sport amid a massive drop in interest in the game recently. Instead, Mr Trump was attacking the dozens of players who took a knee — many of them African American — over the weekend to protest police brutality in the United States.
Those professional sports players were following the lead of former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who pioneered taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem in protest of America’s racist history and present last year. But, they were also motivated by comments from Mr Trump, who mused on Friday during a rally in Alabama that it would be nice to see those players fired by team owners.
More players began to participate in the protests over the weekend following those comments. In some cases, entire teams chose to stay in their locker rooms during the anthem. Team owners and coachers, in some cases, also joined in the protests.
In response, Mr Trump has attempted to rebrand the peaceful protests, saying that they are not protesting police violence and racism, but are instead protesting the American flag and its anthem. No player has yet said they took a knee to protest the flag.
The weekend protests proved divisive, with some bemoaning the players making football political. Others voice full support for their actions.
But, the reaction to the protest may have a darker angle than what one might expect upon first glance. Senator James Lankford, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Wednesday that Russian troll farms had participating, hashtagging “take a knee” and “boycott NFL” in order to amplify the issue, and to overinflate the sense of how big the concern was.
Story first published: 28th September 2017