TRUMP Vs. NFL

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr: Trump comments ‘awful’

Good work, Steve Kerr for backing your team and condeming 45 Racisist behavior!!!

US President Donald Trump is facing growing condemnation from the sports world after his criticism of players.

On Friday, Mr Trump said the National Football League (NFL) should fire players who protest during the US anthem.

High-profile football players as well as basketball star LeBron James openly criticised Mr Trump in response.

One NFL team owner said Mr Trump’s comments were “offensive” but Mr Trump has gone on to repeat his criticism.

Warning: This article contains language some readers may find offensive.

What did Mr Trump say?

Mr Trump attacked protesting players at a rally in Alabama

At a rally on Friday night, Mr Trump said NFL players who protested during the playing of the national anthem should be fired by their team – referencing a controversial string of protests over race relations started by player Colin Kaepernick last year.

“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… he is fired,” he told a cheering crowd.

How did the NFL respond?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement saying “divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect”.

President Trump, however, doubled down on his comments in a tweet.

The NFL Players’ Association said the president had crossed a line by effectively telling players to just “shut up and play”.

Association president Eric Winston said Mr Trump’s comments were “a slap in the face to the civil rights heroes of the past and present”.

Who else has joined in the criticism?

On Saturday night, the Oakland Athletics’ Bruce Maxwell became the first Major League Baseball player to kneel in protest during the national anthem, mimicking the gesture of protest started by Colin Kaepernick.

Jed York, CEO of the San Francisco 49ers – Kaepernick’s former team – said he would continue to support his players.

“The callous and offensive comments made by the President are contradictory to what this great country stands for,” he said in a statement.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Singer Stevie Wonder took to one knee during a concert in New York City on Saturday, saying: “Tonight, I’m taking a knee for America”

There has been no comment from many teams, including New York Jets owner Woody Johnson – a wealthy businessman and Trump campaign donor who was appointed as his ambassador to the UK.

Kaepernick’s mother, Teresa, also joined in the backlash, referencing Trump’s “son of a bitch” comment and tweeting: “Guess that makes me a proud bitch!”

On Saturday, Mr Trump withdrew an invitation to the White House to basketball champions the Golden State Warriors after one player, Stephen Curry, said he did not want to attend.

Curry – NBA’s most valuable player in 2015 – said he wanted to show that he and other players did not stand for “the things that he’s said and the things that he hasn’t said in the right times”.

“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team,” Mr Trump tweeted afterwards. “Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”

In response, triple NBA champion LeBron James, one of the sport’s foremost stars, labeled the President a “bum”.

“Going to White House was an honor until you showed up,” he said. Retired star Kobe Bryant also tweeted his support.

The Golden State Warriors, meanwhile, said the team had clearly understood “that we are not invited” to the White House, but would visit Washington DC on its own “to celebrate equality, diversity, and inclusion”.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he was disappointed the team would not be visiting the White House, but was “proud” of the players for speaking out.


Analysis: Trump knows his audience

Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter, Alabama

Donald Trump spoke for nearly an hour and a half at his rally in Alabama on Friday. The audience of 10,000 was enthusiastic, but one of his biggest applause lines – outside of swipes at North Korea and Hillary Clinton – was when the president took aim at any “son of a bitch” in the NFL who protests during the national anthem.

The crowd went wild – and the president kept going, lamenting recent rule changes, in response to evidence of devastating brain injuries to players, that seek to punish the most ferocious hits in the game.

On Saturday morning the president took to Twitter to fire offline after line attacking the NFL – and athletes in any sport who may have taken issue with his earlier comments.

This is a fight Mr. Trump relishes. He knows his base will flock to him when he questions the patriotism of wealthy athletes. Lines about tax cuts and healthcare reform on Friday night were duds. No one cared much when he spoke of striking deals with Democrats.

The president knows his audience. And he knows how to change the subject.

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