On Friday night, President Donald Trump addressed a crowd in Huntsville, Alabama, in support of incumbent Sen. Luther Strange.
And Trump, as is his wont, went off-script.
During one of several bizarre tangents, the commander-in-chief chastised those players in the NFL who “disrespect the flag.”
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out, you’re fired!” exclaimed Trump, quoting his own reality TV catchphrase.
Many viewers saw the president’s statement as a condemnation of Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback who has been effectively blacklisted by the NFL over his decision to exercise his First Amendment rights and refuse to stand during the National Anthem in peaceful protest over institutional racism against African-Americans. President Trump has previously claimed that he is the reason Kaepernick remains unemployed.
Political satirist Bill Maher—and famed sports announcer Bob Costas, his guest for the evening—addressed the president’s controversial statements on Friday night’s edition of Real Time.
“Maybe this is the place where we should play this out. Now, I think a guy should be able to not stand for the National Anthem,” said Maher, in response to Trump.
“Even people who disagree with him recognize that you’d be crazy to deny the right of expression that the people they rightly revere—for having put their lives on the line to protect it, and ensure it—why would you deprive someone of that right? Even if you disagree with it?” added Costas.
“He is consistently awful,” offered Maher.
President Trump’s criticism of Colin Kaepernick is particularly odd when you take into account that he once—citing the First Amendment—threatened to revoke federal funding of Berkeley in response to protests of alt-right fellow traveler and Trump stan Milo Yiannopoulos (who, incidentally, has a bit of history with Bill Maher). Or when you consider that Trump is no fan of the NFL, having once backed a competing league in the USFL, one of his more embarrassing business ventures.
“In effect, the owners collectively have told Colin Kaepernick to get the hell off the field, because he doesn’t have a team,” said Costas. “Now, is he Tom Brady or Cam Newton? He’s not. But is he better than some starters in the league and many backups in the league? Of course he is.”
Indeed, as a hopeless New York Jets fan this writer wholeheartedly believes that Kaepernick is better than any QB on the Jets’ roster. The Jets’ owner, however, is Woody Johnson—a staunch conservative and Trump’s ambassador to the United Kingdom.
“It’s definitely because of that,” added Maher of Kaepernick’s blacklisting. “I wonder why more aren’t doing what he did? I’m always surprised when I see on the sideline that it’s only a few.”