On a busy day for Donald Trump that includes meetings with congressional tax writers and the president of Spain before a Republican Party fundraiser at a glitzy New York restaurant while a key GOP Senate primary race is settled, the president started his day again attacking professional football players.
Trump went after the Dallas Cowboys — the NFL’s most popular franchise — in tweets posted before 7 a.m. Tuesday, ensuring his brouhaha with some of the league’s players would enter its fourth day in the news cycle. The self-created feud with America’s top sports league gives Trump a way to cast players who kneel during the national anthem to protest perceived social ills as unpatriotic citizens who should lose their high-paying jobs.
On Sunday, a greater number of NFL players than usual kneeled after Trump attacked the pregame protests during a campaign rally Friday night in Alabama. Several teams stayed in the locker room during the anthem. All those moves were in reaction to Trump’s comments.
“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, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!’” the president said Friday night in Huntsville. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’” The friendly crowd in a state he easily won the GOP primary and general elections gave its approval with loud cheers.
On Monday night, all eyes were on the Jerry Jones-owned Cowboys; Jones has called Trump a friend. The Glenstone Corporation, of which Jones is the president, donated $1 million to Trump’s campaign. Jones even hosted a fundraiser for the then-GOP presidential candidate last August. In a surprising move, the entire Cowboys team — joined by Jones and head coach Jason Garrett — kneeled prior to the national anthem before their Monday Night Football road game against Arizona.
Boos echoed through University of Phoenix Stadium as they did so, and POTUS noticed.
Trump wrote Tuesday morning that the boos were the “loudest I have ever heard,” adding they reflect “Great anger” among fans toward those players who, in the president’s view, disrespect the anthem, the American flag, and military troops who fought to defend both.
(The president often refers to things he views as positive for him by describing them as the greatest thing he has ever heard or seen or witnessed.)
But many of the players and Trump’s critics say those same troops also fought to keep intact players’ First Amendment rights to protest what they see as social ills like alleged police brutality against African-Americans.
Trump appeared to take some solace in the fact the Dallas team kneeled before the anthem, writing that the Cowboys then standing for the anthem amounted to “Big progress being made-we all love our country!”
Despite everything else going on Tuesday — and add an expected last-ditch attempt by his administration to keep alive a longshot attempt to repeal and replace Barack Obama’s 2010 health law — the president felt it necessary to start his day by taking a shot at the NFL.
In the day’s first tweet, Trump noted the league’s ratings “are way down except before game starts, when people tune in to see whether or not our country will be disrespected!” Since Trump started the public tête-à-tête, by writing that, the ratings-obsessed president — he once defended not firing former press secretary Sean Spicer because his briefings got high television ratings — essentially was taking credit for the bump NFL games got Sunday before kickoff.
The feud is a low-cost, high-reward one for Trump. But Washington, D.C., area sports radio host Steve Czaban noted on his afternoon drive show on WTEM Monday that it could hurt the NFL, saying the league long term is not in the “protest business” — but likely cannot implement a solution until after this season concludes.
After devoting the morning’s first three tweets to the NFL, the leader of the Republican Party did fire off one supporting GOP Sen. Luther Strange in his Alabama primary runoff against former judge Roy Moore. He took credit for what he called Strange’s improved poll numbers since he appeared in Huntsville on the senator’s behalf Friday night.
Trump wrote Strange has been “shooting up” in the polls the last few days, and urged voters to “Finish the job – vote today for ‘Big Luther,’” using his nickname for the incumbent appointed senator.