When the referees in charge of NFL football games make questionable calls, a challenge can be issued, subjecting the decisions to closer review. The choice by President Trump to attack a group of our nation’s top professional athletes deserves that same treatment.
Upon closer review, I cannot help but conclude that the president’s rhetoric and his comments on social media related to athletes choosing to exercise their rights to protest were both ill-timed and ill-considered.
Ours is a nation continuing to look for ways to bridge the racial rifts that opened up over Charlottesville and other events. On the political side, we are a nation increasingly divided along socioeconomic and party lines. We see this divide manifesting in a Congress that is at times unwilling and at other points unable to compromise and collaborate in a bipartisan fashion to solve our nation’s most vexing problems.
I praised Trump in a recent column for his overture to Democrats in Congress to finally address and fix the immigration mess that he inherited from his predecessor in the White House. As someone who wants to see Trump’s agenda succeed, I am frustrated by the self-inflicted controversy and distraction that he continues to foment.
Are the NFL football players and the other athletes who the president has scorned perfect? No. But they are people with their own opinions, unique personal histories and perspectives. Most importantly, they are Americans who live in a free nation where every one of us who lives here should feel empowered to express ourselves in the manner in which we see fit.
Many of the players who had chosen to carry out their own personal and peaceful protests are among the 70 percent of African-American players in the league, and many are active in their own communities and doing what they can to help inspire, support and lift up others.
Kneeling during the national anthem as a way to call attention to perceived injustice is not something that I would ever choose to do or condone. I agree with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who said, “I do not think the place to express yourself in society is as we recognize the American flag.”
Yet as an American, I champion the right of others to do just that. If the president wants to disagree with their actions, then that is certainly his prerogative. But he should never have chosen to do so with such coarse language, which is not only un-presidential, but also totally uncalled for.
Although we may disagree with our fellow countrymen, it’s inappropriate to resort to crass name-calling and vulgarities.
So what has been the result of the president’s needless fixation on the sports world in recent days? He has created division and anger within the country while doing what previously seemed impossible: bringing together the NFL’s executives, owners, unions, coaches and players in solidarity against him.
I believe that Trump has the capacity and the desire to bring about critical changes for the betterment of our country, but he keeps getting in the way of that. He is also making it harder for those who support his agenda to defend his unpredictable and unproductive actions.