Trump doubles down on 'firing' national anthem protesters

Saturday has turned out to be quite the sports day for the President of the United States. Hours after a Friday night rally in which he called a hypothetical athlete kneeling in protest during the national anthem a “son of a bitch” and decried the NFL’s emphasis on safe contact, he “withdrew” an invitation to the White House to the Golden State Warriors. Combined, the moves drew criticism from everyone from LeBron James to the NFL itself, and killed once and for all the idea that sports and politics don’t mix.

Saturday afternoon, Trump doubled down on his criticism of kneeling players in a pair of tweets:



“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues,” Trump tweeted, “he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”

Trump’s views echo that of a significant percentage of Americans, who have expressed frustration at the protests aimed at raising awareness of systemic racism and police violence. A recent Yahoo Sports poll indicated that support for former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s stance has remained relatively unchanged in the past year, with only about 30 percent supporting his decision to kneel for the national anthem and 46 percent opposing it.

[Watch on Yahoo: Ravens vs. Jaguars live from London Sept. 24]

However, it’s worth noting that players negotiate the right to play for the NFL; it’s no more a “privilege” for them to play than it’s a “privilege” for the owners to have those players wear their uniform. Plus, it’s not at all clear, legally speaking, if an NFL owner can simply “fire” a player for refusing to stand, as Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann notes here. Players have contracts which the team would have to pay out, and the team would have to demonstrate that the player’s conduct reflects badly on the team and the NFL … a stance which the NFL and many teams have weakened with statements supporting players’ right to speak their minds.

Trump hasn’t yet commented publicly on the NFL’s statement rebuking his comments, in which commissioner Roger Goodell criticized, without naming him, Trump’s “unfortunate lack of respect” and “failure to understand” the complexities of the NFL’s many issues. But with NFL teams already reportedly discussing the president’s words in advance of Week 3, this story isn’t anywhere near over.

President Donald Trump. (AP) more]

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.