But hold on there, anti-Trumpers. You don't get off scot-free here, either.
On the back of Trump's remarks, scores of NFL players
joined the protest on Sunday in one form or another
. NFL owners and the league itself issued statements supporting the players in the face of the president's protest. For if there's anything as popular in America right now as being seen standing up for the flag, it's being seen standing up against Trump. Especially if you're a celebrity of any type. Suddenly, people unmoved by the protesters' original cause are siding with them just because Trump attacked them.
Call me a cynic, but I don't think this is still about race, or the flag, or anything else anymore. It's a Trumpian litmus test. You're either with him or against him. And it's not going to stop with the NFL. Already, NASCAR has
issued a warning
against its employees demonstrating during the anthem, and an Oakland A's player over the weekend
reportedly became the first
in Major League Baseball to join the protest.
Which brings us to the self-defeating part of this entire episode. A protest essentially going nowhere -- even the talking heads, who enjoyed having this as a controversial topic during the off-season, were moving on now that there were actual games to analyze and discuss -- has now been inflated to a larger size than ever before. And that inflation was brought on by people, on both sides, who previously showed no inclination to support the original cause. (Some of the players might have sympathized with the issues Kaepernick raised, but not to the point of adopting his chosen form of protest.)
Where has all this gotten us? We're moving backward. What started out as a minor protest is now a major one. What started out as a faux fight over freedom of speech -- there was no indication the government was going to try to force the kneeling players to stand -- now arguably is legitimately a free-speech fight, what with the president of the United States calling for the protesters' bosses to fire them. What started out as a small-scale politicization of a game is now a large-scale politicization of it. What started out as a rather generic debate about race relations is now a very specific fight about Donald Trump.
Unfortunately, that's just how both Trump and his antagonists like it.