Late Night’s Ruthless Takedowns of Trump’s NFL War: ‘This Has Everything to Do With Race’

Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and Seth Meyers had a lot to say Monday night about the president’s latest culture battle.

Bill Maher and John Oliver were the first two late-night hosts to weigh in on President Donald Trump’s escalating war against the NFL. But they were hardly the last.

On Monday night, the country’s unexpectedly political football Sunday was the top story across all of late-night television, beginning with Trevor Noah’s denunciation of Trump’s comments on The Daily Show. “I don’t know if Donald Trump is racist, but I do know he definitely prefers white people to black people,” he said. “I can say that with confidence.”

Noah noted that Trump did “what any insane person would do” when faced with the wrath of America’s most popular athletes: “He doubled down.” Specifically, he told reporters Monday that “this has nothing to do with race,” despite the players’ claims to the contrary and called anyone who would would kneel during the national anthem “disrespectful to our country.”

“These players aren’t trying to disrespect the country,” Noah said. “They’re trying to peacefully protest police treatment of black people in America.”

“If they wanted to disrespect the country,” he continued, “they wouldn’t kneel silently. They would do crazy things like insult Gold Star families, or make fun of POWs like John McCain or say America is morally equivalent to Putin’s Russia. That’s the kind of shit they would do if they were trying to disrespect the country.”

Given that Trump called out Colin Kaepernick in a way he “never did to the Nazis in Charlottesville,” Noah said, “This has everything to do with race.”

Stephen Colbert also went all in on the story during his Late Show monologue, calling “unnecessary roughness” on Trump’s use of the term “son of a bitch” to describe NFL players. “There should be a flag on that play,” he said. “And I’m going to say a Confederate flag.”

As Colbert pointed out, Trump decided in a tweet that players locking arms during the anthem was “good,” but kneeling was “not acceptable,” adding “Bad ratings!”

“First of all, locking arms does not mean they’re on your side,” the host said. “And second, ratings aren’t the only indicator of importance. I hear nobody tuned in to the Revolutionary War.”

“Kneeling during the national anthem has everything to do with race,” Colbert added, echoing Noah. “Just like your presidency.”

On his show, Seth Meyers spent nearly 12 minutes lambasting Trump for ignoring the country’s real problems and instead giving America “one more fucking thing it has to deal with.”

“Let’s just take a step back and consider how embarrassing it is that news anchors now have to introduce comments from the president by warning little children to leave the room,” Meyers said of Trump’s “son of a bitch” comments.

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“It should be clear to everyone who Trump is and what he represents,” the host added. “When black athletes peacefully protest racism and police brutality, Trump has no trouble summoning his outrage. But when white supremacists march with Nazi flags and Confederate flags through the streets of an American city, he equivocates and then defends them.”  

Later, he brought out Late Night writer Amber Ruffin, who shared her thoughts on the controversy, including this joke that Meyers could not have told himself: “You know someone is racist when they don’t even want black people in their field.”