Update: Trump's comments have elicited some responses from NFL players also...
DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFL Players Association
We will never back down. We no longer can afford to stick to sports. pic.twitter.com/Ec3Bc4qt9h
— DeMaurice Smith (@DeSmithNFLPA) September 23, 2017
Lesean McCoy of the Buffalo Bills
It's really sad man ... our president is a asshole
— Lesean McCoy (@CutonDime25) September 23, 2017
Eric Ebron of the Detroit Lions
Does anyone tell trump to stick to politics, like they tell us to stick to sports? Smh.
— Eric Ebron (@Ebron85) September 23, 2017
Chris Conley of the Kansas City Chiefs
“Stick to sports boy... Sit down and do what your told. Say or do something we don't like and your fired" Well I hate to break it to ya...
— Chris Conley (@_flight17_) September 23, 2017
George Iloka of the Cincinnati Bengals
I can't take anything our Celebrity in Chief says seriously. He's a real life clown/troll ????
— George Iloka (@George_iloka) September 23, 2017
Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks
The behavior of the President is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. If you do not Condemn this divisive Rhetoric you are Condoning it!!
— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) September 23, 2017
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As we detailed earlier, after warming up the Alabama crowd Friday night with a recitation of Trump’s Greatest hits (attacks on Hillary Clinton, intransigent Republicans in Congress and, of course, the president’s love of Roll Tide football), Trump abruptly went off on a tangent about the NFL and the growing number of players who are following former San Francisco 49ers back-up QB Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the National Anthem, purportedly to protest racial injustice in the US.
In remarks that predictably provoked a chorus of outrage in the left wing media Saturday, Trump said that NFL owners should fire players like Kaepernick - whom the president implied was a "son of a b***h" for “disrespecting our heritage” by refusing to stand for the anthem – who engage in gametime protests, adding that any owner who did so would become “the most popular person in the country – at least for a week.” He then asked his supporters to leave the stadium if they see players protesting during games, adding that walkouts would force NFL franchise owners to confront the protests.
"When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they are playing our great national anthem – the only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it's one player, leave the stadium," Trump said. "I guarantee things will stop."
"I'd 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."
Of course, even the suggestion that the league engage in the active suppression of speech (as if it isn’t doing that already) was enough to provoke an outraged response from Commissioner Roger Goodell.
In a statement issued Saturday morning, Goodell said Trump’s “divisive” comments “demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL.”
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we've experienced over the last month.
Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”
Unfortunately for Goodell, Trump has a point about the popularity (or rather, unpopularity) of political protests at sporting events, and their impact on the NFL’s ratings.
As Free Market Shooter pointed out in a Saturday post, ratings truly are down across the NFL, and surveys have suggested that the drop is tied to controversial protests, which have alienated many of the white, working-class fans that comprise the league’s fan base.
Though Colin Kaepernick is still unsigned by any NFL team, other players are continuing the “protest” trend that he started. However, since Kaepernick first refused to stand for the anthem last year, attendance at the team’s games, and its ratings, have declined.
A recent J.D. Power survey shows that the national anthem protests are directly to blame for declining ratings.
The group surveyed 9,200 fans (a sample of 1,000 is usually used in political polling), and 26% of them said they had turned the games off due to the national protests alone.
As Free Market Shooter concludes, at the end of the day, the NFL is facing a number of headwinds that have led to a decline in ratings. High prices of the game itself, both for the home consumer and the fans in stadium seats, are certainly what gets the ball rolling on fans choosing to tuning out. Combine that with questions on the quality of the game, accessibility, and a litany of other factors not mentioned here (including the commissioner’s punishments of players and concussion fears), and it seems the political antics of some players is just one of many aspects that has led to the NFL’s sharp ratings drop.
However, when a Trump-voting US military veteran is sitting at home, pissed off about how his team is 0-2, angry that his cable bill is eating into his disability payments, upset that the game “isn’t what it used to be,” and he turns on the game just before kickoff to see a player doing this while the National Anthem is being sung…
...it just might be the straw that breaks this guy’s back and gets him to tune out of this week’s game. Given the NFL’s current predicament regarding viewership, political antics from players are the last thing the league needs right now.
* * *
For anyone who has been following the Kaepernick saga, the hypocrisy in Goodell’s statement should be strikingly obvious. NFL owners have, in effect, already acquiesced to Trump’s demands that they fire protesting players: case in point, Kaepernick has been blackballed from the league after opting out of his contract with the 49ers back in March.
But then again, hypocrisy is nothing new to the NFL.