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A lot of stuff happened this week that the president could have voiced concern over — Puerto Rico’s devastation after Hurricane Maria or the United States’ increasingly tense relationship with North Korea, for example.
Instead, he rage-tweeted over and over again about NFL players who take a knee in protest during the national anthem.
Former San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick — who has remained unsigned since opting out of his 49ers contract in March — triggered a movement last year when he began kneeling during the “Star-Spangled Banner” to protest police brutality and racial injustice. Other players soon joined in.
But because of Trump’s comments this week, the movement has morphed into a protest of the president himself.
“Sons of bitches” Day 246 — September 22
Trump set off several days of controversy when he called NFL players who kneel during the national anthem “sons of bitches.”
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump said to a crowd at an Alabama rally for Luther Strange, the Republican senator running for Jeff Sessions’ vacant seat. Trump encouraged NFL fans to boycott the league over the protests.
NFL stars reacted with fury. Reggie Bush, George Iloka, Chris Conley, and many others jumped into the fray to denounce Trump and throw support behind Kaepernick and other protesters. Even NFL coaches and owners got involved — The Pittsburgh Steelers’ owner, for example, opted to keep players from the field until the national anthem had concluded.
Still going on about the NFL Day 247 — September 23
The next day, Trump refused to apologize for his comments about the NFL and instead responded with more wrath.
“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,” the president tweeted. “If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement that called Trump’s comments “divisive” and showing a “lack of respect” for the NFL. Trump responded with his own angry statement in which he demanded that Goodell “tell them to stand!”
The president proceeded to go after one of the biggest stars in sports: Stephen Curry of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. Trump had invited Curry to the White House but withdrew the invited after the basketball star said he wasn’t coming anyway. “I don’t want to go. That’s really it. That’s the nucleus of my belief,” Curry said.
In a tweet defending Curry, LeBron James called Trump a “bum.”
“Bad ratings!” Day 248 — September 24
Trump continued ranting about the NFL on Twitter.
NFL players across the country locked arms and knelt during the national anthem — some in continued protest of police brutality and racism, others in direct response to the president.
The president gave his Twitter-take on players’ body language: “Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!”
Oh yeah, Puerto Rico Day 249 — September 25
Trump managed to take a break from tweeting about football to finally acknowledge the crisis unfolding in Puerto Rico in the wake of back-to-back hurricanes, most recently Hurricane Maria. Trump insisted “food, water and medical are top priorities – and doing well.”
But hospitals have been without power for weeks, half the island doesn’t have running water, fuel supplies are running out, and nearly three-quarters of Puerto Rico still don’t have cell service. Oh, and he also chastised Puerto Rico for owing “billions of dollars” to Wall Street.
Still, Trump couldn’t let go of the NFL thing.
“The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race,” Trump tweeted, even though Kaepernick and the others who protest have said it has everything to do with race. “It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”
What threats of war? Day 250 — September 26
Everyone’s going to hellDay 251 — September 27
Trump repeated his call for owners to fire players who protest police brutality and racial injustice.
“The NFL is in a box, a really bad box,” he told reporters outside the White House. “In my opinion, the NFL has to change or their business is going to go to hell.”
In an ironic twist of fate, the DOJ stepped in this week to defend a student’s right to tell other students that they were going to hell too.
Trump also attacked Facebook by saying the tech company is “always anti-Trump.” Mark Zuckerberg fired back in a 350-word rebuttal asserting Facebook is a “community for everyone” — not just conservatives or liberals. “Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don’t like,” Zuckerberg said. “That’s what running a platform for all ideas looks like.”
Railing on team ownersDay 252 — September 28
After days of waffling, the Trump administration temporarily waived the Jones Act, which will allow other than U.S.-flagged vessels to ship goods between U.S. coasts. The move will speed up disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico, which the president will visit next week.
Not to be outdone by aid for a natural disaster, Trump said in an interview that NFL owners — who are mostly white — are “afraid of their players.”