Politics has left the sidelines of American football and moved onto the playing field. Despite tweeting otherwise, U.S. President Donald Trump now said he is not calling for a boycott of the National Football League after player protests against racism in America.
CGTN’s Toby Muse has more.
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Trump’s latest clash is not with DPRK, Russia or even the Democrats. It’s with professional American sports.
The president is criticizing a number of mostly African-American football players protesting what they say is racist policing in the U.S. They take a stand by taking a knee during the playing of the American national anthem.
“We respect our flag,” the president told a crowd in Alabama on Friday. “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. He’s fired, he’s FIRED.'”
The response was swift. Across the country this Sunday, more than 130 players knelt, sat or raised fists in the air during the national anthem. Players on two teams that traveled to London for a game in Wembley Stadium also took part. Many others locked arms in a show of solidarity.
Last weekend, just four players protested.
The National Football League called the president’s comments “divisive” and said it would run commercials during Sunday’s games highlighting how American football unites the country.
Both sides said there are important issues at stake: respect for the flag, freedom of speech and the right to protest.
Trump’s feud with the NFL comes as he is also squabbling with the championship basketball team Golden State Warriors. On Twitter, he rescinded at least one player’s invitation to visit the White House.
Several miles from the president’s home, football fans gathered at the Washington Redskins’ stadium. While those we spoke to were split on the protests, they seemed to agree the president should not have gotten involved.
“I don’t agree with the President,” Chris Handon said. “Owners should stand with the players and protest the illegal shootings of African Americans.”
Another fan, Jason Kilger, partly agreed and partly disagreed.
“He has his own opinion, but I think politics and football should be totally different. I think the NFL is out of his jurisdiction.”
Why is the president getting involved now? There could be votes in it. A J.D. Power survey showed that of those who stopped watching football this year, a quarter stated their main reason was the national anthem protests.
As the president reacts to the players actions, and the players react to the president, this mix of politics and sport is sure to only grow.