Trump re­sumes at­tack on 'out of con­trol' NFL as rat­ings slump con­tin­ues

The Guardian Australia - - Sport - Guardian sport

Don­ald Trump has mounted his fourth at­tack on the NFL in eight days, con­tin­u­ing his long cam­paign against the protest move­ment among the league’s play­ers.

“At least 24 play­ers kneel­ing this week­end at NFL sta­di­ums that are now hav­ing a very hard time fill­ing up,” the pres­i­dent tweeted on Tues­day morn­ing. “The Amer­i­can pub­lic is fed up with the dis­re­spect the NFL is pay­ing to our Coun­try, our Flag and our Na­tional An­them. Weak and out of con­trol!”

The ex­act num­ber of play­ers protest­ing against racial in­equal­ity in the US is hard to count as some kneel be­fore the an­them, oth­ers stay in the tun­nel while oth­ers stand with their arms on the shoul­ders of sit­ting team-mates. How­ever, Trump’s fig­ures roughly tally with those of the As­so­ci­ated Press, which counted 23 play­ers sit­ting out the an­them dur­ing Sun­day’s af­ter­noon games. That is still a small mi­nor­ity of the league’s play­ers, how­ever: there are 32 teams in the NFL, and 46 play­ers on each ros­ter are el­i­gi­ble to play each week.

Trump prompted large num­bers of play­ers to protest ear­lier this sea­son af­ter say­ing any­one who kneels for the an­them should be fired. Rat­ings for last week’s games on Thanksgiving, usu­ally a time when Amer­i­cans gather round to watch foot­ball, were down, con­tin­u­ing a de­cline that has lasted all sea­son. How­ever, it is not clear that the protest move­ment is the rea­son be­hind the de­cline as TV rat­ings are down across US sports in­clud­ing Nascar, which is pop­u­lar in Trump’s heart­land.

Trump’s as­ser­tion on Tues­day that the NFL is hav­ing a hard time fill­ing up sta­di­ums is dubious. At­ten­dances have held steady this year al­though the NFL takes into ac­count sea­son tick­ets in at­ten­dance fig­ures, even if fans do not show up.

The pres­i­dent’s an­tipa­thy to­wards the protest move­ment is shared by large parts of Amer­ica. An ESPN sur­vey showed the ma­jor­ity of white Amer­i­cans op­pose the protests. The same sur­vey showed most African Amer­i­cans ap­prove.

The protests have also in­flu­enced other sports. The Ger­man soc­cer team Hertha Ber­lin took a knee in sol­i­dar­ity with NFL play­ers, while NBA star Kevin Du­rant said Colin Kaeper­nick, who started the move­ment, had made him more aware of his sta­tus as a black man in Amer­ica. “It def­i­nitely put me in a dif­fer­ent place be­cause we just started talk­ing about stuff that’s al­ways been go­ing on,” Du­rant told the San Jose Mer­cury News this week. “You tend to just fo­cus on what you know, or fo­cus on what you do ev­ery day, and some­times you can be so far re­moved from where you grew up or from home that you don’t re­al­ize what’s go­ing on back there.”

Seat­tle Sea­hawks play­ers sit and kneel dur­ing the play­ing of the na­tional an­them on Sun­day. Pho­to­graph: Don Fe­ria/AP

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