Subject: Trump winning the NFL protest debate, pundits say
The Bubble: Trump is winning his 'war on black athletes,' liberals say
William Cummings, USA TODAY Published 2:34 p.m. ET Oct. 12, 2017
Each week, USA TODAY's OnPolitics blog takes a look at how media from
the left and the right reacted to a political news story, giving
liberals and conservatives a peek into the other's media bubble.
This week, liberal media voices admitted reluctant defeat in the war
over NFL players' national anthem protests. The issue had been slowly
simmering since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to
stand for the national anthem before a game last year to protest racial
injustice and police brutality. President Trump brought it to a boil
last month when he said team owners should fire players who refuse to
stand and he has continued to hammer at the protests in speeches and on
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter Tuesday to all 32 teams
that said players "should stand" during the national anthem, leading
Trump and conservative media voices to declare victory in the great
From the left: Trump's 'war on black athletes has nothing to do with
Salon politics writer Chauncey DeVega said Trump's demand that NFL
players stand for the national anthem is part of a larger strategy to
"inflame supporters by ginning up white racial animus towards 'disloyal'
and 'unpatriotic' black and brown Americans."
DeVega called Vice President Pence a "lazy racist" and said his walkout
at the Colts game Sunday after several 49er players knelt for the anthem
was a "stunt" meant to show "his displeasure towards 'uppity' black
Despite "widespread criticism of Trump in the media," his "white racial
resentment strategy is largely working, at least when it comes to the
NFL anthem protests," DeVega wrote. And he believes it's working
"because it connects white patriotism and white nationalism to white
racism — without him needing to make the connection overt or explicit."
From the right: In war against Trump, NFL suffers 'total and utter defeat'
Trump won the fight over the NFL anthem protests before it even began,
said Townhall's Matt Vespa.
The president went too far in calling for kneeling players to be fired,
but the NFL lost as soon as it took the bait and "went on the freedom of
speech bit" in defending the players, Vespa said.
Citing declining ratings and ticket sales, Vespa said fans were turning
away because they believe the protests disrespect the flag.
"Free speech matters, but it’s irrelevant here, as is any issue these
players were trying to highlight," Vespa said. "When you come off as an
unpatriotic piece of crap, everything you stand for suffers. Period."
From the left: Trump winning his 'little culture war' — and Americans
are the losers
"Since he has accomplished absolutely nothing substantive during his
time in the White House, Donald Trump has made it his mission to get the
country and NFL on his side about the issue of standing during the
national anthem," wrote Daily Kos' Kelly Macias.
By "speaking and tweeting ad nauseam about unpatriotic black football
players taking a knee, as well as owners needing to crack down on their
action," Trump succeeded in rallying his base and eventually NFL owners
to his side, Macias said. He "applied enough pressure that a private
employer is now capitulating to his wishes."
Trump is playing a game with all of us. Sadly, he’s winning his
unnecessary, mad little culture war and our country—and all of us
Americans—are the losers.
From the right: Trump's NFL stance is 'starting to make me nervous'
It's no surprise that conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh thinks the
protesting players are disrespecting the anthem, the flag, the cops and
the military. But he also expressed fears that Trump is leading America
toward a slippery slope by using the power of the presidency to demand
the NFL force players to stand for the anthem.
Limbaugh stressed that he thinks Trump's "motives are pure" but he said
he doesn't "think that it is useful or helpful for any employee anywhere
to be forced to do something because the government says they must. That
scares hell out of me."
Limbaugh believes Trump's intervention worked though.
"I don't care how you slice it, it constitutes a Trump win," Limbaugh
said. "I’m not so sure that if Trump had not applied pressure, that they
would have changed."
From the left: 'Colin Kaepernick is a martyr'
Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson said in an interview with
Democracy Now! that the NFL player protests are "not flag desecration"
but are about "using the symbol as a gesture." Jackson said Trump and
Pence are not reacting to players disrespecting the flag but actually
"protesting their right to exercise their First Amendment rights."
Jackson defended the players, whom some have attacked as spoiled
multimillionaires, saying they come from campuses under a form of
"apartheid" and that "they’ve gone from picking cotton balls to picking
footballs, but not really growing."
"Colin Kaepernick is a martyr, by virtue of his suffering, and he
deserves the right, even now, to try out for teams," Jackson said,
comparing Kaepernick to other black athletes like Jackie Robinson who
fought for racial justice.
From the right: 'Go to another country and play football'
Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka said he doesn't believe "football
is the stage for protest" in an interview Monday. Ditka said he was not
"condemning anybody or criticizing anybody" but went on to say, "If you
don’t respect our country, then you shouldn’t be in this country playing
football. Go to another country and play football."
Ditka went even further, questioning the protesting players' assertion
that racial injustice is a problem in America.
"I don't see it," Ditka said. "You've got to look at a person for what
he is, and what he stands for, and how he produces, not by the color of
his skin. That has never had anything to do with anything. But all of
the sudden it's become a big deal now about oppression. There has been
no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of."
More: Eric Reid: 49ers won't force players to stand for anthem