Conservative pundit Mona Charen excoriated President Trump for attacking the National Football League.
She claimed that Trump was “reckless” to call NFL players who knelt during the national anthem “sons of bitches.” Trump’s remarks further undermine our sense of national cohesion because “football is one of most unifying aspects of American culture.”
For starters, it was Colin Kaepernick who first brought divisiveness into the NFL by kneeling during the national anthem. By contrast, Trump’s actions may be driving the politics and, hence, the divisiveness, out of professional football.
Whether Trump intended to or not, his outburst enticed most players in the NFL to either protest the anthem or stand in solidarity with those who did before the games during week 3 of the current football season. In so doing, they showed that they considered it more important to support anthem protests than to please NFL fans who dislike the protests.
The backlash was fast and furious. Fans in Boston booed the Patriots. Many other fans took to YouTube to burn jerseys, towels, and other NFL gear they owned. Cable provider Dish Network offered rebates to subscribers to its NFL package.
Best of all, online ticket sales dropped almost 18 percent.
With their pocketbooks beginning to hurt, NFL teams finally began to backtrack.
The Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, and New Orleans Saints announced they will stand for the anthem this week (although the Saints will kneel briefly before the anthem). Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, said he regretted protesting the anthem and that his team won’t do it again. New York Giants owner John Mara requested that his players stand for the anthem. (Only one Giants’ player, Olivier Vernon, kneeled during week 4, which began Sept. 28.)
A group of owners, players and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell held a meeting to discuss the future of the protests. Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas, who was present at the meeting, said “there was a general consensus that something must change given the negative response and ramifications (financially, potentially) of the player protests.”
Teams and owners weren’t the only ones worried about their bottom lines. Fox announced it would not show the national anthem before NFL games. Fox didn’t give a specific reason for the action, but you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that showing the protests was hurting TV ratings.
In week 3 of the NFL—the week right after Trump excoriated the NFL—over 200 players kneeled during the national anthem. That figure fell to just a few dozen in week 4. Expect that to fall further in the current week 5.
Trump’s comments compelled NFL owners and players to choose—stand with poseur leftists like Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett or a large swath of their fan base. Clearly, they chose wrong.
Most NFL owners will continue to pressure the players on their teams to drop the protests. During the offseason, they’ll pressure their tool-cum-commissioner Roger Goodell to establish a policy that NFL players must stand for the national anthem. By next season, expect politics in the NFL to stop at the stadium entrance.
None of these positive developments would have happened without President Trump.