Amid his legal meltdown, Trump continues attacks against NFL players
President Donald Trump tried to distract from his disastrous legal problems last night by talking football and anthem protests. Here, he talks with Alabama head coach Nick Saban as he looks at a football he received from the 2017 NCAA National Champion University of Alabama football team, April 10, 2018. | Susan Walsh / AP

With a one-two (legal) right hook hitting Trump right dead in the jaw yesterday—Michael Cohen, his longtime attorney and self-proclaimed “fixer,” and Paul Manafort were both found guilty of criminal charges—you would think the tweeter-in-chief would take a hint and stay silent.

Ah…but this bloviating windbag either can’t stop or just won’t.

Speaking to supporters at a Tuesday night rally in West Virginia, Trump merged his criticisms of the NFL, the players, and sports network ESPN.

Trump lashed out at ESPN for not televising the national anthem before “Monday Night Football” broadcasts, which is just a continuation of the network’s preexisting policy.

“You’re proud of our country, you’re proud of our history, and unlike the NFL, you always honor and cherish our great American flag,” Trump told the gathered West Virginia crowd. “It was just announced by ESPN that rather than defending our anthem, our beautiful, beautiful national anthem and defending our flag, they’ve decided that they just won’t broadcast when they play the national anthem. We don’t like that.”

As reported earlier, ESPN along with other networks have infrequently broadcast the anthem, usually tying it into some other event. Before a Dallas Cowboys-Arizona Cardinals game last season, ESPN aired the anthem when Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones joined his team in taking a knee and linking arms, before rising to stand for it with arms locked.

“We generally have not broadcast the anthem, and I don’t think that will change this year,” ESPN’s new president, Jimmy Pitaro, told reporters last week. “Our plan going into this year is to not broadcast the anthem…. Again, that could change. It’s unpredictable what could happen in the world, but as of now, we’re not.”

Trump also took a shot against players Monday night, whom he has continued to criticize for their activism.

“So while the players are kneeling—some of them, not all of them at all—you’re all proudly standing for our national anthem,” he said.

Trump’s tirade comes days after a defense of NFL players by Texas Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke—Ted Cruz’s challenger—went viral.

When asked about the players’ anthem protest during a campaign stop, O’Rourke said that he “can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights.”

“Non-violently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to ensure that we fix it,” he continued.

With the Texas Senate race in a dead heat (Cruz leads O’Rourke by only two points in a recent polls), Cruz responded over the weekend.

“When Beto O’Rourke says he can’t think of anything more American (than players taking a knee), well I got to tell you, I can,” said Cruz.

Cruz noted service members on military posts around the nation routinely salute the flag and stand at attention whenever the anthem is played.

Only 16 days till the regular season begins, who knows what the hell will happen next.


Al Neal
Al Neal

Award winning journalist Al Neal is PW associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World. He is a member of the Chicago News Guild, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, National Sports Media Association, and The Ernest Brooks Foundation.