It’s the first Sunday of the new NFL season, and President Trump wasted no time indulging in one of his favorite hobbies: attacking the league over players protesting police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem.
In a tweet sent out Sunday morning, Trump tried to make a connection between a year-over-year decline in ratings of the league’s Thursday night opening game and players who protest.
Wow, NFL first game ratings are way down over an already really bad last year comparison. Viewership declined 13%, the lowest in over a decade. If the players stood proudly for our Flag and Anthem, and it is all shown on broadcast, maybe ratings could come back? Otherwise worse!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 9, 2018
But as former player Donte’ Stallworth noted in his response to Trump, ratings are down for multiple sports leagues, not just professional football. There have also been declines for television programming in general, he pointed out. So Trump’s comparison isn’t quite making the point he thinks it is.
TV ratings are down across all five of the major networks, not just the NFL. But don’t let that simple fact get in the way of your propaganda, Mad King. https://t.co/pLtU3xUr2t
— Donté Stallworth (@DonteStallworth) September 9, 2018
The president’s criticism comes in the wake of Nike’s decision to make quarterback Colin Kaepernick the face of its new campaign. Kaepernick, who was the first player to take a knee in protest of police brutality, hasn’t played in the league since 2016 but remains a big presence in the football world.
Trump has frequently targeted players who protest. Last year, in a not-so-subtle reference to Kaepernick, he infamously said a player who protests is a “son of a bitch.” The epithet not only was met with condemnation from across the league, but it sparked more players to join the protest. With his latest tweet, Trump is indicating that he’s ready to escalate this culture war even further.
The NFL’s handling of the situation has been awkward, to say the least. Earlier this year, league owners met devise new rules to stop players from protesting, only to suspend the rules after widespread disapproval. Now, the league says that it won’t implement any policy on protesting during the anthem at all.
If the league is really looking for a solution, perhaps officials should listen to Washington defensive back Josh Norman. His advice? “I wouldn’t tell them to do a fucking thing. This guy is going to be out of office in two years. I think we’ll be OK.”
In any case, players don’t seem to be intimidated by either Trump or league officials, as the protests continued on Sunday.
Miami Dolphins wide receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson became the first players of the 2018 regular season to kneel in protest during the national anthem.
Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn also raised a fist. https://t.co/mkEY8ZxQxd
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) September 9, 2018