Trump’s call for an NFL boycott is not just a fight against the NFL, it’s a culture war.
On September 24th, Donald Trump escalated his attacks on NFL players who kneel during the national anthem with a series of tweets, suggesting that the NFL should “fire or suspend” those players and calling for the NFL to change its policy. While the silent protests that took place around the country are important, Trump spent an uncanny amount of time and tweets on the NFL protests, diverting Americans from other, more urgent issues that were taking place.
Many teams in both the NFL and the NBA have began taking part in the protest, initiated by Colin Kaepernick through kneeling, linking arms, or staying on the sidelines during the playing of the national anthem. While solidarity is being expressed through these actions, it is also possible that some may lose sight of what the kneeling symbolizes. Kaepernick began kneeling to protest police treatment of African Americans, however, other players have joined to protest Trump and the infringement of their First Amendment rights. Whether the diversion from the initial purpose of kneeling is intentional or not, the current protests are not addressing the “mistreatment of African Americans” issue so much as the “Trump is a terrible president” issue.
That being said, the NFL protests are creating many consequences for Trump, both socially and economically. Trump sympathizers are now split between supporting their sports team or their political team. There has been rather limited backlash against the NFL for allowing the protests to occur. Trump has, for some individuals, broken an influential unifier of the nation, creating a greater divide in the country.
In addition, major NFL advertisers and sponsors have taken a backseat to the issue, deciding to wait out the storm that this war has created. Trump is putting major companies such as Pepsi and McDonald’s between a rock and a hard place through his call for fans to boycott the NFL. He would prefer to destroy the league and all companies that support it, and is essentially telling companies in partnership with the NFL to take a stand against players who kneel or risk losing business.
And what’s more is that Trump’s boycott against the NFL shouldn’t even be the top priority of Americans right now. Not only has the president issued more reforms on his travel ban, he has also threatened the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program issued by President Obama, and is not acting accordingly to the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria on the American island of Puerto Rico. When asked if he believed that he was tweeting an excessive amount about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, Trump insisted that his complaints about the players were important for America, implying that more pressing matters were not as important as his argument with the NFL.
The most distressing circumstance that has resulted from Trump’s Twitter banter is that he has managed to distract America, and the world, from more critical issues. Shit only gets done so long as people pay attention to the issues, so long as there is effective debate happening, so long as people care. While the boycott against the NFL is an important issue, we should also be paying attention to other, more consequential issues that have risen from Trump’s presidency, so that change can happen, and America can actually become good again.