Trump’s tackle on American Football players could just sparkend-game
FORMER President Mary Robinson said this week that the world now faces a more dangerous time due to US President Trump’s abrasive methods of diplomacy. Mrs Robinson made the remarks after Trump’s ‘rocket man’ jibe at North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the UN General Assembly where the multi-millionaire president drew much ire from North Korea and Iran with plenty of eyebrow-raising from western leaders too.
But Trump has also left his flank badly exposed at home when calling on people to boycott American Football (NFL) games over the decision of some African-American players to kneel while the national anthem was being played – a disrespectful act under the Stars and Stripes flag according to Trump.
The controversy started over a year ago when former San Francisco 49ers quarter-back, Colin Kaepernick, took issue with riots sparked by the shooting of black citizens by white police officers. Kaepernick – who was subsequently replaced by the San Francisco franchise and still finds himself without a team – started a protest that took time to ignite but has developed into an inferno following Trump’s inflammatory comments.
Speaking in New Jersey on Sunday, Trump urged NFL franchises to remove players who disrespect the flag, saying coaches should ‘get the son of a b***h off the field’. The comment sparked widespread anger in the US, an anger that has transcended sports with basketball star LeBron James labelling the President a ‘ bum’.
Some commentators believe Trumps latest ramblings could ultimately signal the downfall of this administration. At no point in recent US history has there been such friction between sport and the White House. With the exception of the ‘68 Black Power salute at the Mexico Olympics, sport has typically served as the dividing line between political discourse and societal pleasure; a sanctuary where political allegiances are suspended in the name of sporting tradition.
Even multi-millionaire owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft – a long-term friend of Trump’s – expressed his disappointment over the president’s comments.
However, on the flip-side, respect for the American flag has been an all-encompassing doctrine that has unified modern America.
When there’s trouble at home, leaders typically look abroad for legacy and Trump’s bashing of belligerent foreign leaders might cut him some slack from ‘patriotic’ Americans. But a shot across the bows of America’s ‘untouchable’ sports stars might well prove a bridge too far. For many, sports stars – actors and musicians too – hold much more sway amongst voters and it’s fair to assume they can direct the race debate easier than Trump can.
Sport has long been the refuge of citizens wishing to escape the daily grind but Trump’s Twitter venture into this sacred world might well spark the end of his tentative support. The election was won in the ‘Rust Belt’ but this is also a region that contains some of America’s most -popular NFL franchises – in cities such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo and Detroit.
Mary Robinson has warned of dangerous times ahead internationally but Trump’s endgame could well be on home turf.