“This has nothing to do with race. I’ve never said anything about race,” Donald Trump told reporters, referring to his latest criticism of NFL.
The conflict started with the president attacking athletes for protesting during national anthem by calling them “son of a b****” and encouraging team owners to fire them on the spot. The president was referring to the series of silent protests condemning police brutality against African Americans, initiated last season by then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“This has nothing to do with race. I’ve never said anything about race,” Trump told reporters in Bedminster, New Jersey. “I think the owners should do something about it. It’s very disrespectful to our flag and our country.”
Well, given how Kaepernick was protesting against the brutality and violence black people face at the hands of the police, it is really hard not to construe Trump’s remark as racist.
The commander-in-chief’s comments came as more than 100 NFL players, coaches, support staff and even some owners knelt, linked arms or stayed off the field during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to send a direct message to the Trump administration.
Meanwhile, the White House is busy defending the president by slamming the athletes for exercising their right of free speech.
During a recent interview on ABC News, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said NFL players should “do free speech on their own time.”
“I think what the president is saying is that the owners should have a rule that players should have to stand in respect for the national anthem," Mnuchin said. "This isn't about Democrats, it's not about Republicans, it's not about race, it's not about free speech. They can do free speech on their own time. That this is about respect for the military and first responders in the country."
White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short reacted in a similar manner.
When Fox News host Chris Wallace asked the officials if Trump regretted “opening the racial wounds started after Charlottesville,” Short outright denied the allegation and claimed, “the president is not looking at this through a racial lens.” He also began talking about how high school coaches are punished for praying before games while the football players taking the knee during the national anthem are made out to be heroes.
“The president is pointing out that that shouldn’t be accepted. They have a First Amendment right to do that, but NFL owners also have a right to fire those players,” he said.
Given how these players are raising their voices to stop law enforcement agencies’ unfair treatment of a minority community, they should indeed be honored.
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Aaron P. Bernstein