Donald Trump doesn’t like NFL players protesting police brutality and racism by taking a knee during the national anthem. In fact, he thinks that anyone who does so is a “son of a bitch” who should be cut from the roster–do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Well, a number of NFL owners, as well as the league office, got the memo–and threw it back at Trump. While the league rolled out a video calling for unity, several owners condemned Trump’s statement for the divisive bilge that it was, and some of them went as far as to join their players in locking arms and/or taking a knee during last week’s games.
So why didn’t the owners bow down to Trump? Well, Trump has a theory. They’re just scared.
Late Wednesday, Trump spoke with Fox News’ Pete Hegseth about the kneeling controversy. The interview aired on Thursday’s edition of “Fox & Friends”; watch it here.
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) September 28, 2017
Trump mused that the owners–some of whom he counts as his friends–feel like “we have to do something.” So why won’t they just summarily cut anyone who takes a knee?
“I think they’re afraid of their players, you want to know the truth, and I think it’s disgraceful. And they’ve got to be tough and they’ve got to be smart.”
Really, Donald? They’re afraid of players who are merely taking part in a peaceful protest?
Apparently Trump isn’t the only right-winger who thinks the owners need to grow a spine. Take black conservative pastor Jesse Lee Peterson, for instance.
— Jesse Lee Peterson (@JLPtalk) September 25, 2017
So because the players aren’t being docile enough, the owners are quaking in their boxes. Am I the only one who hears a dog whistle?
A more plausible explanation for why the owners haven’t taken Trump’s “advice” comes from my team, the Carolina Panthers. Unlike Trump, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson believes that a businessman ought to listen to his employees.
With the exception of defensive end Julius Peppers, who stayed in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem, the Panthers didn’t join in the wave of on-field protests that took place this week. This was mainly because owner Jerry Richardson had yet to weigh in on the matter, even though many of his fellow owners had loudly condemned Trump’s remarks.
After the game, Peppers made clear that he meant no disrespect to veterans or the police. Watch his comments here.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera fully supported Peppers’ decision to stay off the field, saying that he was trying to “find a way to do it the right way.” But it took until Monday for Richardson to speak up.
Statement from Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson pic.twitter.com/aTDcTkfIRW
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) September 25, 2017
The next day, several of the Panthers’ more prominent players met with Richardson privately at his home in Charlotte. Besides Peppers, they included quarterback Cam Newton and linebackers Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly. At that meeting, Richardson assured them that if they wanted to join in the protests, they had his full support. He did, however, warn them to be prepared for backlash from fans and others.
Earlier, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said that a number of players wanted to link arms or take a knee, but were afraid it would “piss the wrong person off.” He wanted to “be a man” and “stand up for something,” but didn’t know whether Richardson would see it as improperly politicizing the game. He was relieved to hear that Richardson would stand by them.
Hmmm, an owner who actually listens to the concerns of his players rather than issue ex cathedra demands to button up or else. What a concept. But then again, it’s no surprise that this is an alien concept to Trump. After all, we’re talking about a guy who has never worked for anyone not related to him before, and has always been either the boss or heir apparent. Contrast that with Richardson, who unlike Trump is a truly self-made man. He used his bonus check from winning the 1959 NFL title with the Baltimore Colts to make a fortune in the fast-food business before successfully bidding for an expansion team in 1993.
You don’t get that far by merely dictating to your workers. Richardson knows this. Perhaps if Trump realized this, he wouldn’t expect the players to simply knuckle under. Then again, we’re comparing a real businessman to a fake one.
(featured image courtesy Gage Skidmore, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)