Trump Hits Out at NFL Over Player Protests

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Donald Trump’s latest war of words and provocative late-night tweets have focused on the sporting world, as he came under fire from high flying athletes across the major sports protesting his presidency. Trump has hit back, claiming that these players aren’t disrespecting him, but the United States itself.

The protests started last year when NFL player Colin Kaepernick sat or knelt during the national anthem rendition before games to highlight the mistreatment of black Americans. Other athletes are now taking action, with increasing numbers of players taking a knee, while the Pittsburgh Steelers stayed in the locker room for the entirety of the national anthem before their match against Chicago Bears.

These protests have led Trump to call for players who take such actions to be fired or suspended. At one rally in Alabama he commented:

Wouldn’t you 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 is fired.’

However, there is no worry of such action being taken from the players, as the commissioner of the world’s largest and most successful sports league released a statement saying ‘divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect’, a response which only prompted further anger from the current President.

The argument has continued with the NFL Player’s Association commenting that the President has crossed a line with his ‘shut up and play’ attitude while the vice president of the association, Eric Winston, added what Trump had said was ‘a slap in the face to civil rights heroes of the past and present‘.

The protests aren’t confined just to the NFL. Stephen Curry, one of the NBA’s (National Basketball Association) biggest stars, has said that he wouldn’t attend his team’s visit to the White House, an honour that is awarded to the champions of the four major sports leagues. Trump then responded by uninviting the entirety of the Golden State Warriors.

LeBron James, a triple NBA champion, and a superstar not only of basketball but of the sporting world as a whole, branded Trump a ‘bum’ and fellow star Kobe Bryant also weighed in with his opinion.

The Golden State Warriors stated they clearly understood ‘they were not invited’ to the White House but were planning a trip to the capital under their own steam ‘to celebrate equality, diversity, and inclusion’.

The NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, has expressed his disappointment in the team not visiting the White House but is behind the players and their actions saying that he is ‘proud’ of what they have done.

Over in the National Hockey League, the back-to-back champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins issued a statement saying they will be accepting Trump’s invitation to the White House, but would respect any player’s individual choice not to attend. The Penguins are a team with a strong European presence with lots of players having immigrated from across the pond and so it will be interesting to see if any choose not to attend.

These actions across the sporting world have caused a divisive split in the community, with supporters of Trump claiming that these athletes need to respect the flag as it’s their responsibility for being paid millions to play. Meanwhile, others have defended the protests claiming that they have a right to voice their anger and should be allowed to use their status as a platform.

With fans saying they will boycott the NFL and Trump calling for fans to walk out of the stadium if players continue, only time will tell to see if these events will affect the NFL’s stronghold on the American sport market and whether the trend of increased politicisation of sport will continue or not.

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