The intersection of sports and politics has resulted in a collision that once would have been thought unthinkable: U.S. President vs. NFL owners, the most exclusive of professional sports' "One Percent Club."
This would be a good time for the #StickToSports crowd to stop reading now.
Deny all you like. But here's further illustration that sports overlaps with almost every endeavor of life, now more than ever. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fired back at President Donald Trump Saturday morning for comments Trump made in Alabama Friday about the NFL not being tough enough on players who protest the national anthem.
This Goodell statement arrived in my email box this morning: "The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we've experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities."
So Goodell defended the shield, put the league up on a pedestal and called out Trump for "divisive comments" and an "unfortunate lack of respect."
Before delving into Trump's comments in Alabama, a couple of thoughts.
• Goodell hasn't had the best of relationships with players. He has been inconsistent in areas of discipline and too often is seen as not having his players' backs, a contrast to the dynamic between NBA players and commissioner Adam Silver. So this was a great way for him to try to score some points, even if it seems orchestrated.
• Goodell works for the NFL owners, who are not exactly a group of leftist liberals. Aren't Trump and New England owner Robert Kraft best buddies? So the thought of them turning on Trump is amusing, if that's what actually has happened. Or maybe it's just for appearances.
Trump also went after Steph Curry and the NBA champion Golden State Warriors this morning. He rescinded his invitation to the White House, but only after Curry said he would vote against the team going to Washington D.C. for the traditional ceremony for sports champions.
And there's this Tweet this morning from LeBron James:
Update: Falcons owner Arthur Blank also has weighed in now:
“We are at our very best when we are working together, building unity and including everyone’s voice in a constructive dialogue. Creating division or demonizing viewpoints that are different than our own accomplishes nothing positive and undermines our collective ability to achieve the ideals of our democracy. The NFL has historically been a strong catalyst for positive change and I’m proud of the way our players, coaches and staff use that platform to give back to our community and strive to be good citizens making a positive impact on this and future generations.”
As for Trump's anti-NFL comments, it' easy to see why Goodell might've been irritated. Among them: "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. He's fired!"
Here's a transcript:
Colin Kaepernick's mom weighs in:
So Trump has now at least partially alienated the NFL and NBA. At this pace, major league baseball, the NHL, the MLS and maybe NCAA champions will be on his list before the end of next year.
The south lawn at the White House may suddenly have a few dates open if you're looking to book an event.
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