Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Reimer: NFL players, like Donald Trump's other scapegoats, rebuke his desperate bluster

Alex Reimer
September 24, 2017 - 6:17 pm

Donald Trump’s debased presidency is in perhaps its most perilous state yet. His week began with an unhinged tirade at the United Nations, in which he threatened to obliterate North Korea and called its maniacal dictator, Kim Jong-un, “Rocket Man.” But instead of quivering, Jong-un egged Trump on, labeling him a “frightened dog.” 

The insults continued midweek, with new revelations about special counsel Robert Mueller seeking White House documents pertaining to Trump’s most scrutinized actions in office. Trump has continually derided the Russian investigation, referring to it as the “greatest witch hunt in history.” But the denigration has not deterred Mueller. If anything, the investigation appears to be expanding in scope. 

On top of it all, Republican leadership may once again fail to nullify Obamacare, despite incessant heckling from Trump’s Twitter feed. Sen. John McCain, who Trump once mocked for being a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said Friday he couldn’t support the last-ditch repeal effort in “good conscience.”

Trump behaves like a carnival barker, and elicits as much respect as one, too. Even Ann Coulter is now campaigning for his impeachment, over his reported immigration deal with Democratic party leaders.

Scapegoating is a favored practice among the weak, so Trump’s utilization of the transparent tactic should come as no surprise. But few are buying into his empty bluster. The President of Mexico says his country isn’t paying for the wall, the much-maligned Muslim travel ban has expired amidst several legal challenges, and the Pentagon says transgender troops can still serve in the military. The President expects his targets to treat him with the same deference he received from D-list celebrities on the “Apprentice.” It hasn’t worked out that way, much to his apparent chagrin. 

NFL players are the latest subjects of Trump’s desperate rage. At a rally Friday night in Alabama, the President called them “sons of bitches” for protesting the national anthem and crusaded for their firing. He continued his attacks over the weekend, unleashing eight tweets about player demonstrations during the “Star-Spangled Banner.” 

Trump also disinvited Steph Curry to the White House for saying he wouldn’t make the trip. As a result, the Warriors said they will boycott the event.

With his agenda collapsing, Trump is once again trying to stoke the flames of white grievance.  On Sunday, the NFL decided to fight back. The majority of owners, some of whom supported Trump’s candidacy, issued statements condemning his divisive language. The message from his billionaire brethren was clear: belittle whomever or whatever you like, but don’t come after our business. As it turns out, the Shield stands stronger than tax breaks. 

Trump called for fans to walk out of stadiums if they saw players protesting this weekend. So, in a strong rebuke, nearly every NFL team orchestrated some sort of anthem demonstration. According to the Associated Press, more than 100 players participated. In Week 2, there were only 14

Three teams –– the Steelers, Titans and Seahawks –– stayed in the locker room while the anthem blared. 

Fans booed in arenas across the country, including at Gillette Stadium, where close to 20 Patriots took a knee when the national anthem began. Tom Brady stood with his hand over his heart, but also linked arms with a group of teammates. 

“We just wanted to send a message of unity and being together and not standing for the disrespect and the different ways guys felt,” captain Devin McCourty told reporters afterwards.

In a comedic attempt to save face, Trump altered his position Sunday afternoon, tweeting “Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!"

Trump tried to bully outspoken athletes of color Friday night, and failed miserably. It was another embarrassing defeat in a presidency that’s been full of them.

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