Trump v. the Sports World

Paul Smyth, Class of 2018

President Trump’s recent spar with some members of the NFL and the NBA who refuse to stand during the national anthem has caused backlash from the sports world against the controversial Commander-in-Chief. At a rally for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange, Trump commented on the recent trend of NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem. This act was started by quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016, and is a way to peacefully protest the social injustices against African Americans across the United States.

Trump expressed his desire for NFL owners to take a definitive stand against this recent trend by their players. Ignoring pleas from within his own administration, Trump also said that NFL team owners should respond to players by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired.” He even went as far to say that fans in attendance should “leave the stadium” if players protest the anthem, and that this action would somehow end the protests. Expectedly, the President’s outlandish comments have been met with incredible backlash across the NFL, with a unified front from both the players and owners.

As if one attack was not enough, President Trump tweeted his disdain for NBA superstar Stephen Curry, who had been outwardly wavering on whether or not to visit the White House with the rest of the Golden State Warriors, as is tradition for the winner of a major sports championship. The Warriors had declared earlier in the week that they would discuss as a team whether or not to accept the president’s invitation.

“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s recent stance toward the sports world has been met with backlash from many athletes and stakeholders throughout all professional sports. The vast majority of NFL owners has come out in overwhelming support of their players, echoing the sentiments of those who choose to protest the anthem. The same support has been seen by many prominent members of the NBA, especially from the likes of Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James.

“U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going! So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!” James tweeted.

So, what does this mean for President Trump? What are the political ramifications of his outlandish remarks that attack a base who, in large part, represents a large portion of those that support him? Various statistics show that over 70 percent of the people who watch the NFL are white. Further, in the 2016 election, 58 percent of non-hispanic whites voted for Trump, while 38 percent voted against him. In essence, Trump has made a tremendous error in his recent remarks, which have upset both his fellow politicians and American sports fans. It may even result in lost support and lost votes.

We can see this sentiment further by looking at the sidelines this past Sunday in the slate of NFL games. Athletes, coaches and owners alike stood arm-in-arm in their visible protest against Trump’s remarks. In one case, the Pittsburgh Steelers chose not to even stand on the field for the anthem, and instead held a private pregame ceremony in their locker room. More players than ever before took a knee this week, and more players voiced their feelings about the president than ever before. The media attention on this issue has escalated beyond belief, and the White House will need to find a way to somehow spin this in their favor.

Personally, I cannot possibly imagine a scenario where the president’s comments attacking the sports world would have a positive impact on his platform and subsequent chances for re-election. It seems that everyday Trump is digging himself into a deeper hole that not even he can dig himself out of. The time is now for those who disagree with the president, whether they are Democrats or Republicans, to pounce on Trump’s mistake and capitalize on the opportunity to make their voices heard. This starts with our athletes, some of our most salient public figures, stopping the acts of hatred that have come to define our democracy.

Contact Paul Smyth at [email protected]