Trump Thinks NFL Players Are 'Unable To Define' Why They're Protesting

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The president tweeted out a rant on Friday morning against NFL players, who are protesting racial disparities, especially in policing, that persist in America.

Buffalo Bills players kneel during the national anthem during a game from the 2017 season.

UPDATE: President Donald Trump’s Friday morning tweets disparaging National Football League players who protested during the national anthem at preseason games this week did not go unchallenged.

Pro-Bowler defensive end Cameron Jordan, who plays for the New Orleans Saints, responded to Trump’s tirade against players by asking the president to level the same criticisms toward racists planning the so-called “Unite the Right” rally this weekend.

Directing his commentary toward Trump, Jordan asked, “how about we get a statement on the ‘unite the right’ rally 2 being held in DC this weekend... a yr after the first one in Charlottesville???”

The rally held last year erupted into violence when white supremacists violently attacked counterprotesters. One of those counterprotesters, Heather Heyer, was killed by a white nationalist who drove his vehicle into a crowd of people.

In the days after that event, Trump was criticized for not speaking out loudly enough against the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia. He even suggested that both sides were to blame.

Trump has been relatively quiet about another “Unite the Right” rally being held this weekend in Washington, D.C., on the anniversary of that deadly day last summer.

Jordan’s criticism of Trump continued in two more tweets, in which the NFL player called the president a “Goober,” and added that he is an “overly insecure prepubescent child.”

Jordan also scoffed at the idea that anyone in his administration could rein Trump in, citing those who have tried and already left the White House since he became president.

“But what do I know I’m just a guy who should stick to football,” he concluded.

Jordan’s response to Trump is an important rebuke to the commander-in-chief, who only seems to see the world through rose-colored lenses. Trump is critical of players for kneeling in protest because he won’t take the time to understand why they’re kneeling in the first place.

We shouldn’t expect him to do so. After all, this is the same guy who said there were “fine people” among the crowd of white nationalists during last year’s “Unite the Right” demonstrations. Anyone who witnesses violence, bigotry, and vitriol through that kind of filter cannot possibly comprehend why the players are kneeling in the first place.


President Donald Trump once again lashed out at National Football League players who decided to kneel during the national anthem at preseason games played this week.

In tweets he made Friday morning, Trump questioned whether the players even understood what they were protesting, suggesting that they were directing “their ‘outrage’ at something most of them are unable to define.” He also encouraged the league to suspend them "without pay" for continuing to kneel.

Protests during this week’s games ranged in form, from players continuing to kneel, to others holding their fists in the air. Some players, adhering to new league rules on the matter, waited in the locker rooms during the anthem rather than make their protest more public.

The players who have kneeled during the anthem are protesting injustices directed toward black citizens in the United States, particularly when it comes to disparities in policing where treatment toward people of color is noticeably different than it is toward white people.

To suggest that these players are “unable to define” that struggle is abhorrent — they live it daily. Many grew up with such prejudices being held against them for nothing more than the color of their skin, and some still experience those biases even after becoming stars in the NFL. Players have, in fact, explained on myriad occasions why they kneel.

After the protests commenced during preseason games this week, the NFL released a statement, explaining that while they are “engaged in constructive discussions with the NFL Players Association” about the issue of protest, they would not punish players who kneeled.

“While those discussions continue, the NFL has agreed to delay implementing or enforcing any club work rules that could result in players being disciplined for their conduct during the performance of the anthem,” the statement said.

The president was incredibly condescending on Friday in his own statement in suggesting that players didn’t understand what they were protesting. He also urged players to “[b]e happy, be cool,” telling them that “fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy” the games.

“Most of that money goes to the players anyway,” Trump added. “Find another way to protest.”

That last statement is false. League agreements with the NFL Players Association allow for players to receive, at most, 48.5 percent of shares of revenues the NFL earns each year. 

This is not the first time that Trump has made disparaging comments toward players’ protests. Last year, he suggested that owners should fire players who kneeled.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b***h off the field right now,’” he said.

After the NFL changed its policy, Trump also suggested that players should be deported for their silent protests.

“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country,” he said during an interview on the topic.

The NFL players, under the agreements they have between their union and the NFL itself, should be allowed to express their views in a silent manner on the field, in the locker rooms, or anywhere else. Kneeling during the anthem isn’t a slight against America, veterans, or anything the president suggests it is. The protests are intended to draw attention to racial disparities in our country and nothing more.

Trump himself doesn’t discuss that topic much, and he didn’t cite it even in his complaints against players in his rant on Friday. It seems more likely that Trump, not the players, can’t define what these protests are actually about, and that he’d rather turn it into something it isn’t to help himself out politically, a move that is detestable even for Trump’s standards.

Banner/thumbnail image credit: Leah Millis/Reuters

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