As NFL owners prepare to launch two days of meetings that could result in changes to the existing anthem policy, the politician who turned embers into a brush fire last September revisited the controversy on Monday.
President Donald Trump made indirect reference to the phenomenon of protests during the anthem as 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. visited the White House.
“At every NASCAR race you will see thousands of patriotic Americans, from the grandstands to the pit stalls, proudly waving our flag,” President Trump said, via SportingNews.com. “One thing I know about NASCAR and I will tell you, they do indeed stand for the playing of the national anthem . . . . Somebody said, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t say that. It’s going to be controversial.’ I said, ‘That’s OK. NASCAR isn’t going to mind it at all.'”
While the President stopped short of referencing the NFL expressly, the remarks serve as a reminder that the issue remains on simmer, with the potential of exploding as the 2018 season approaches — especially with the midterm elections only two months later. Thus, as Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports recently explained, some NFL owners will try this week to come up with a solution that ends the protests once and for all.
Any effort to placate President Trump will serve only to bolster the theory that the collusion keeping both Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid unemployed traces not to racism (as some incorrectly characterize the argument) but to a shared concern among those who own the teams that doing business with someone like Kaepernick will invite more criticism from President Trump and, in return, more derision from a base of supporters that will remain loyal to him, no matter what.
The lingering problem for the NFL is that the league gave players the right to protest, confirmed it after Kaepernick was first spotted not standing for the anthem, and reiterated it after President Trump challenged owners to “get that son of a bitch of the field” if/when kneeling happens. It could be too late to unilaterally take that right away.