On Friday night, President Trump started another one of his trademark fights. After firing off against African American athletes taking a knee during the national anthem, the stars of the NFL and NBA are aligning to respond to Trump.
The president went after America’s most popular sport when he mentioned NFL players at a political rally in Huntsville, Alabama.
“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. He’s fired. He’s fired,’” Trump said. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it, but they’ll be the most popular person in this country.”
Trump then went on to attack the NFL’s lower ratings and new safety procedures designed to make the game safer.
“The NFL ratings are down massively,” he said. “Now the number one reason happens to be they like watching what’s happening with your truly. They like what’s happening. Because you know today if you hit too hard…15 yards. Throw him out the game. They’re ruining the game. That’s what they want to do. They want to hit. It is hurting the game.”
NFL team owners donated millions to the Trump campaign. Patriots owner Robert Kraft even gave Trump his own Super Bowl ring. That didn’t stop NFL commissioner Roger Goodell from issuing a statement condemning Trump’s comments.
“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities,” Goodell said.
NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith came to the defense of his players in a statement released Saturday morning.
“The union will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens, as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks,” Smith said.
Trump was not finished there. Early Saturday morning, after finding out about NBA superstar Stephen Curry rescinding an invitation to the White House, the president took to Twitter.
“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!” Trump tweeted at 7:45 a.m. Saturday.
Curry caught the President’s attention when he announced he would not vote to go to the White House when the team makes a decision as a whole.
“By acting and not going,” Curry said, “hopefully that will inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country and what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye to”
Lebron James also piled on to the president when he took to Twitter to defend his NBA comrade.
“U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going! So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to the White House was a great honor until you showed up!” James tweeted.
With renewed attention on the players, all eyes are sure to be on Sunday’s NFL games and the players’ actions during the national anthem.