The Casual Racism of Trump’s Attacks on Kneeling NFL Players

The president has escalated his attacks on (mostly black) NFL players protesting racism in America during the national anthem—and they seem to be working.


Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Donald Trump doesn’t really seem to care about much, but he does probably care about football. I mean, I don’t know if he still watches week to week or anything like that. I’m pretty sure he isn’t devouring the latest Barnwell or chilling with his bros (I suspect he doesn’t have bros) on the couch, tossing back O’Doul’s and talking about how, “Jameis Winston needs to get it together out there, stop throwing so many picks, but he seems like a decent enough kid.”

But, he played in school, and the idea of owning an NFL team has clearly always appealed to Big Daddy Gutlord. He was the owner of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals, and was instrumental in making the league shift their schedule to fall as a way of forcing the NFL to merge. It did not work and the league fell apart almost immediately.

Yet the dream lived on! When the Buffalo Bills’ original team owner Ralph Wilson died in 2012, Trump tried to buy the team, offering a billion dollars (he claims all cash, which seems kind of absurd considering what we know about how leveraged the guy is) and getting beat out by Buffalo Sabres owner, natural gas magnate, and probably-a-really-good-guy-who-is-not-unpleasant-or-unnerving-in-any-way-in-his-own-right, Terry Pegula, who beat him out by bidding hundreds of millions of dollars more than Trump did, and also probably by having finances that aren’t idiotically complex and tied to all kinds of offshore warlords and people of that nature. Trump was very not mad about it.  

Trump probably doesn’t really give a flying fuck about most of the stuff he peddles at rallies and on Twitter. Does he really think that the United States should be going out of its way to dunk on Turkey for its catastrophic inflation? He’s a grifter, a sports talk radio host, who accidentally pressed a bunch of idiotic racist buttons and became president for no particular reason of his own making, the stupidest nonsense that has ever happened to America.

But there is clearly one group of people he takes real pleasure in making problems for, and it is the owners and players of the National Football League, who very unfairly kept him from bringing the Buffalo Bills back to greatness and refashioning himself into a genuine member of the American Elite, as opposed to the show dog carnival barker he is now.  

And hey, in fairness to Trump, we should all be pretty fucking mad at the NFL. If they just gave him the goddamn Bills he would be screwing them up even more than they already are instead of doing the same shit to America. The health of their team in the weirdest, dumbest market they’re franchised in, playing in their shitty football league that everyone at least sort of hates is clearly less important than the broader health and prosperity of the United States and the world at large. They should have given that big baby the Bills to chew on, instead of letting him run his mouth at podiums across the country and transmuting every slack-jawed moron who attended into a bubbling, conspiratorially-minded cauldron of racial resentment.

But hey, at least those NFL owners who screwed us in 2014 by not letting an oafish, highly-leveraged moron into their stupid billionaire boy’s club are feeling the heat for it on the back end.

Because, if Trump is good at anything—and honestly, he isn’t, but roll with me here—he is good at leveraging sports to create racial resentment. After several members of the Miami Dolphins protested during the national anthem in a preseason game, receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson taking a knee behind their teammate and defensive end Robert Quinn standing and raising a fist, Trump, displaying machine-like efficiency he exhibits in literally not even one other aspect of his life, took to Twitter, a social network my therapist tells me I should use less because its style really feeds into my attention deficit disorder, and let loose with some classic content, taking aim at these players and the broader protest movement that their gestures were meant to evoke:

A brief rundown of all the nonsense he’s managed to fit into this one:

ONE: Like he did when he went after LeBron while he was doing an interview about building a nice school for poor kids, he is calling the intellect of the protesters into question, saying they don’t understand why they’re even protesting. This is, of course, horseshit. Players wouldn’t follow Kaepernick’s lead and put their careers in jeopardy on a hunch. They are kneeling for specific purposes, to protest racism in America, particular the kind practiced by police officers. Ask any one of them.

TWO: “Be happy, be cool!” Hey c’mon buddy, just because black people keep getting killed by police officers who have no fear of accountability doesn’t mean you gotta kill the buzz we’re all trying to get at the stadium! A football game is something people pay to attend, and when you pay for something (except, I suppose, sham college classes), you deserve to receive exactly what you want without, for even one second, being reminded of the broader malfeasance of the world. Receiving money for goods and services is a moral act, and to sully it by existing as something aside from a cog in a bloodsport is just goddamn unacceptable!

THREE: The players actually don’t get most of the money! The NFL’s revenue shakes out to a 47-48.5/53-51.5% split in favor of ownership. Not to mention that the insta-cut contracts most players receive put pretty much everyone in the league on precarious ground, ready to get cut at any second. This fact makes the players who are actually going out there and demonstrating for what they believe in even more heroic, because they really do have something that they can lose very easily, not a heap of spoiled unionized money-grubbers taking wheelbarrows full of money from the poor, poor hands of long-suffering ownership.

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FOUR: How the hell are Facebook and Google getting the shit end of the right-wing-free-speech stick for banning pill grifters who accuse Sandy Hook parents of being crisis actors when the president they all voted for is suggesting taking money out of the pockets of anyone who stages a silent, non-disruptive protest before a football game? I mean I know why, it’s because they’re hypocrites, but that’s a boring answer.

Not that debunking any of this works, of course. Most of Trump’s heavy-boy whiny nonsense is for his most brutally converted idiots, but this one might actually work on a broader scale. A certain type of person really fucking hates athletes having opinions about police officers and expressing them during the national anthem! Trump complaining about it, both as a matter of blowing that ol’ dog whistle and as a means of getting revenge against everyone who ever told him he couldn’t hustle his way into the league or buy the Bills for a stack full of junk bonds, actually works! The NFL’s viewership has been in the shitter since this all started, and it gets more culture war juice out of crowds than any of the other horseshit he’s out there shilling. He’s impulsively button-jamming, like he always does, but not everything is the same: this button is really shiny and satisfying to him.