On NFL #TakeAKnee, Trump Said “Jump” And An Entire Nation Asked “How High?”

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After President Trump makes a few comments about NFL players taking a knee, Americans, whether they’ve supported him or not, bent to his will.

If Marvel introduced a superhero whose primary superpower was to create a media firestorm, most people would wonder what anyone could do with that. Donald Trump answered that question when he was elected the 45th President of the United States. Since being elected, he has used this power repeatedly on a country that is powerless against it. Most recently, Trump decided to start a war of words with football players who have taken a knee during the National Anthem specifically and the NFL as a whole. Millions of people took to social media to respond, not realizing that they’re mindlessly following Trump’s whim.

In the abstract, we can’t help but be impressed. Once you realize what Trump’s goal was (Hint: It wasn’t getting players fired), then you realize what a superpower Trump really has. Just take a look at the pieces of this game:

  • Kaepernick & Co: The players are making a protest against police brutality against African-Americans during the National Anthem before NFL games. Whatever Kaepernick’s intentions were when he started his protest at the beginning of the 2016 season, it’s grown far beyond him, especially now that he finds himself unemployed. The problem for these players is that there is a pretty large risk in the visual of of them not respecting the American flag and the National Anthem.
  • The NFL & its teams: As the #TakeAKnee movement has grown, NFL teams have found themselves in a tough situation. In theory, they can demand that players stand for the National Anthem, but they haven’t, likely because they saw no way to win on this race issue.
  • Donald Trump: The President had alienated his base with immigration reform that was beginning to look a lot like amnesty and needed to toss them some political red meat. A bunch of millionaire athletes choosing not to respect the American flag on national television was just what he was looking for.
  • The Left: The liberal/progressive Twitter/blogosphere has been in constant outrage mode for about 10 months now and shows no sign of calming down anytime soon, so the President can count on them to deliver the attention and anger he needs from them, especially in this kind of situation.

What was Trump’s goal? To place himself with the majority of Americans who believe in standing for the National Anthem while putting his opposition in the “Hate America” camp. So at a rally in Alabama he tells the audience that players who kneel during the National Anthem should be fired by their team owners. The crowd loves it. So Trump took to Twitter to double down.

Bad news for the National Football League

Suddenly the NFL finds itself as the whipping boy in a Trump diversion strategy. Before, the League was attempting to straddle the fence on the issue. Now it finds itself more in the spot of Belgium circa 1940. The teams discovered that Trump was forcing their hand by demanding they fire players who take a knee. There was no way to subtly work their way out of the situation. Most responded with hostility towards the President’s statements and offered support for players who wanted to take a knee. This suits Donald Trump’s purposes fine, as it provides more for his base to get enraged about.

Of course the NFL has been enjoying the benefit of playing it both ways. They’ve been all too happy to wrap themselves in the American flag for prestige and profit and now some of those chickens are coming home to roost. Teams have coordinated closely with the US Military, often in exchange for recruiting budget dollars, to associate football as closely as possible with the US military and first responders.

The Losers

You know what we didn’t ¬†hear/read people discussing this weekend as this firestorm melted down all media everywhere? Police brutality.

That just goes to show that whatever the intention of these football players and their supporters, they employed a wrong-headed approach. Suddenly it’s become identity politics with African-Americans on the anti-flag side of things, which is just not good for the country.

The country as a whole has lost this weekend, as it does whenever patriotism becomes a binary exchange with the country on one side and whatever issue on the other.

The biggest loser in the deal is the NFL, a brand that was America’s premiere sporting brand, but finds itself in scandal after scandal. For many, the start of the American football season was one of the best parts of fall. Just the sound of a game on brought to mind the better things about America. Now that esteem has been tarnished by a constant stream of scandals and the league’s treatment of those scandals.

As is usually the case whenever Trump gets one of these dumpster fires going, it was a tough few days for informed Americans, who, if they took it upon themselves to educate those operating with less facts than themselves got to spend a lot of time explaining how the 1st Amendment doesn’t apply to private employers, that the President’s verbal diarrhea isn’t an exercise of government power and why Flag Code is irrelevant.

The Winners

We’d suggest the real winners this weekend were any websites which had published the Flag Code. They got tons of traffic this weekend, mostly from Trump opponents trying to find the numerous ways that people who love the country and its flag were actually do so incorrectly. Unfortunately, we think they failed to realize that this isn’t the type of debate that gets won on a technicality. Put simply, Jingoism>Criticism.

Obviously Trump won, as he got to energize his base and position himself alongside the red-blooded American side of the country. He also got everyone’s minds off of whatever it is he was worried we were thinking about.

One could argue that the Dems are winners too, but to a lesser extent. After all, whenever Trump tosses red meat to his base, he’s effectively tossing kale and veggie burgers to his opposition.

And the last winner is your one (if you’re lucky) Facebook friend who learns one fact every time Trump trolls an issue and they run around posting it in the middle of every single online debate. That guy had one hell of a weekend letting everyone know what was up.

One Lesson

If there’s one thing that everyone needs to learn (or relearn), it’s that if you make the decision to politicize something, expect most people to end up hating you for it. Most Americans don’t want politics in every aspect of their lives. There are many things that we engage in to escape from those issues. Sports is one of those escapes. ESPN keeps being taught this lesson and now the NFL gets to join them in the “Politics = Lost Revenues” schoolhouse.

Moving Forward

Trump presents an interesting challenge to the country as a whole. His standard operating ¬†procedure of trolling everyone whenever he finds himself in a political bind is amazingly effective, but only because everyone agrees to be trolled. Even if the left-wing blogosphere were to act against their personal interests and ignore Trumps statements and actions, Trump inevitably finds a way to bring some political neophytes into the fold, most recently the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and most of the NFL. So even if the political classes could be disciplined enough to ignore Trump’s statements on whatever irrelevant issue that he has no actual political power over, the civilian targets would still make it an online media firestorm.

We live in a time where Americans don’t have an immunity to social media. We can no more ignore the President’s tweets than follow the instruction of the book title “Don’t Think Of An Elephant”. That said, it doesn’t mean that everyone shouldn’t try.

[Yes, we have the self-awareness to recognize that writing yet another article about Trump and the NFL is essentially throwing more gasoline on the dumpster fire, but, as the saying goes, what’s another torpedo in a sinking ship?]

-Tristan Pinnock, Blast Football Correspondent

Tristan's just this guy, ya know?