When Donald Trump stood before a raucous Alabama crowd on Friday and called on NFL owners to fire players who take a knee during the National Anthem, he was immediately hit by a backlash so strong that he tried to walk back his comments. He said locking arms is OK. He also tried to claim that his remarks “has nothing to do with race.”
Oh, but the remarks were very much about race, especially since Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in 2016 to protest the unjust killings of Black men and women by police and to fight racial oppression. The NFL free agent has since been blackballed from the league presumably because of the protest movement, which has generating a groundswell of support from activists, fans, politicians and civil rights leaders. Trump’s comments, however, propelled the movement to new levels, prompting some NFL owners–many of whom had remained quiet throughout the debate–to lock arms with players on Sunday.
But we all know when Trump is caterwauling on Twitter, he is likely distracting attention away from a looming crisis, and his administration faces many. His healthcare reform measure is on life support, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were devastated by the latest Hurricane Maria, and needs his immediate attention.
Further, he is locked in a war of words with North Korea, his son Donald Trump Jr. remains under scrutiny for the June, 2016 meeting between senior members of his father’s presidential campaign and a group of Russians offering opposition research about Hillary Clinton. And former campaign chairman Paul Manafort potentially faces indictment in the widening Russia investigation. His son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is a senior advisor, faces heat in a new email scandal that accuses him of conducting White House business on personal email.
Whatever Trump is trying to distract the nation’s attention from, his NFL comments just made his race problem a whole lot worse and gives even more credence to Jemele Hill‘s White supremacist tweet. It didn’t help that he stepped on stage Friday to “Sweet Home Alabama,” by Lynrd Skynyrd, a Southern rock band that loved to perform with the Confederate flag against the backdrop.