The silent protest of NFL players over police brutality and racism is a response to very real injustices, but the so–called outrage led by Donald Trump and his administration is an appalling, racist distraction.
In a powerful and moving act of solidarity, players and coaches from both the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars took a knee and linked arms during the national anthem in Sunday’s first NFL game at Wembley Stadium in London. Other teams are expected to follow throughout the day.
This round of protests was prompted by outrageous comments Trump made during a rally Friday night, which are part of an ongoing effort by the president of the United States to attack black people, and specifically individual black athletes, from the highest political office in the nation.
“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. Out. He’s fired. Fired!” Trump blathered at an Alabama rally on Friday.
After then trying (and failing) to bully NBA MVP Steph Curry, Trump continued his attacks on NFL players via Twitter over the weekend. In a series of tweets, Trump resorted to faux patriotism and “respect” for the U.S. flag in order to rally his base:
Trump then called for a boycott of the NFL:
And then he told a racist lie about NFL attendance and ratings:
According to Keith Olbermann, the billionaire Pakistani–American who owns the Jaguars, Shad Khan, had donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration. But on Sunday, he joined his team in silent protest.
As if Trump’s hysteria weren’t enough of a scandal, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, under fire for taking taxpayer–funded chartered flights, joined in the cacophony by telling CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday morning that the NFL should ban the silent protests. Apparently, in the deluded minds of this failure of an administration, the treasury secretary’s job includes trying to curb the constitutional rights of African Americans and dissenters.
He repeated those statements on ABC’s This Week, where he said, “They can do free speech on their own time”:
Note that this comes from a man whose nickname is the “foreclosure king,” whose former venture, OneWest, used “questionable practices to foreclose on thousands of American families,” according to Business Insider. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said that OneWest was “notorious for its belligerence and for its cruelty.”
Mnuchin and Trump have another thing in common besides cruelty: a sense of entitlement. Both got where they are because of rich and powerful fathers. Mnuchin got his job as a Goldman Sachs banker thanks to his dad, who worked there. As Business Insider reports, Mnuchin left Goldman Sachs at the age of 39 with “a reported $46 million stake.”
But these two high–ranking public officials aren’t alone in this racist shell game. Trump cheerleader and former KKK grand wizard David Duke is excitedly taking credit for the current strategy by claiming to be the intellectual author of calls for an NFL boycott, which Trump continues to parrot.
“I was the first political leader to call for the Boycott of the NFL – and I won’t be the last,” Duke tweeted. “Once more we lead! Silent Americans no more!”