Donald Trump thought he saw an opportunity. He thought he could criticize the black NFL players who have been kneeling during the National Anthem in protest of racism. He was expecting to score points with his own racist base and with white moderates, while only angering those who already despise him. But by the time Sunday afternoon’s football games began playing out, it had become clear that the entire NFL was coming together in solidarity – against him.
It started early this morning when New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who has a close personal relationship with Donald Trump, released a statement condemning him for having profanely attacked NFL players and their civil rights. It continued when former NFL head coach Rex Ryan, who had campaigned for Trump during the election, used his TV commentary role to angrily rail against Trump for attacking NFL players. That was just the warm-up act.
As the first game of the day was kicking off, the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who had donated to Trump in the past, stood arm in arm with his players during the anthem, some of whom were kneeling. As the day went on, far more NFL players took a knee than ever before. As the day went on, the owner of the Miami Dolphins did the same. Several other owners released statements condemning Trump.
By the time the games were fully underway, the message couldn’t have been more clear. The players were more inclined to protest than ever. The players who didn’t want to protest were inclined to show solidarity with the players who were protesting. The owners and coaches made clear that they wanted Donald Trump to back off. By the end of it all, the NFL had simply kicked Trump’s ass. If he thought he could turn the NFL against itself for his own gain, he misjudged things yet again.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report