Trump doesn’t understand why NFL players protest during anthem. Maybe this will help.

"Be happy, be cool!"

Michael Thomas #31 of the Miami Dolphins and Kenny Stills #10 of the Miami Dolphins take a knee during the national anthem prior to the game against the New York Jets at the Hard Rock Stadium on November 6, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (CREDIT: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Michael Thomas #31 of the Miami Dolphins and Kenny Stills #10 of the Miami Dolphins take a knee during the national anthem prior to the game against the New York Jets at the Hard Rock Stadium on November 6, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (CREDIT: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

The NFL preseason officially kicked off on Thursday evening, and before long, it became clear many players would continue to protest police brutality and racial injustices during the national anthem, despite the ongoing conflict between the NFL and the NFL Player’s Association about how to handle such protests.

So President Trump, facing headlines about his cruel family separation policy, conspiracy theory supporters, and the Mueller investigation, decided to tweet about football Friday morning.

“The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem,” he tweeted, before suggesting the athletes “wanted to show their ‘outrage’ at something that most of them are unable to define.”

In a follow-up tweet, Trump urged players to “be happy, be cool!”

“Find another way to protest,” he wrote.

Apart from insulting the players, who face possible fines and suspensions over their demonstrations, and the obvious misguided cultural backlash against them from the president’s supporters, Trump’s assertion that most players are unable to define why they are protesting during the anthem is patently untrue.


Only 15 hours before Trump’s tweet, Malcolm Jenkins, a safety for the Philadelphia Eagles, tweeted this perfectly succinct and eloquent definition of the reason for the NFL protests:

Jenkins also got creative in June when a big crowd of reporters gathered by his locker to ask about NFL anthem protests. He held up a series of signs when he received questions about it, articulating exactly why players are choosing to protest the anthem — police-involved shootings and criminal justice reform.

Jenkins is far from the first player to clearly articulate the reason for his protest.

Colin Kaepernick, who started the protests two years ago when he was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, has never minced words when addressing the real reason behind the #TakeAKnee movement.


“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people, and people of color,” Kaepernick said in a press conference in 2016 after first sitting out during the anthem. “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street, and people getting paid leave, and getting away with murder.”

Many of the men across the league who have followed Kaepernick’s example have spoken up as well — particularly in the face of incessant attacks by Trump.

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“I don’t have time for…”

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This week, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers — who has been supportive of the protests, and who previously joined the demonstrations by linking arms with his teammates last season, but not kneeling — cautioned those who might agree with the president, saying if the public didn’t know what the protests were about, then they hadn’t been paying attention.


“[I]t it was never about the anthem, it was never about the troops, it was about social equality and racial injustice,” he told The Ringer.

In June, after the Trump abruptly canceled the Philadelphia Eagles’ ceremonial Super Bowl champion visit to the White House at the last minute — primarily due to the fact that so few players were willing to come — White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders disastrously fielded a question from Urban Radio Network’s April Ryan about whether Trump understood why players were protesting.

“The president has made his position crystal clear on this topic,” Sanders responded. “He feels strongly that standing for our national anthem is something that we should do, something that matters to what makes our country special and unique and what sets us apart. He’s not going to waver on that, he’s not going to apologize for it, and frankly, more than 70 percent of Americans agree with him on that matter. If you go back to what the original intent was, this has been made a political argument, of which the president is not going to back down from, and he’s been clear on it.”

Trump’s “replacement” White House celebration event, supposedly held to satisfy the desire of real football fans to show their devotion to the flag and the anthem, was lightly-attended, underrepresented by Eagles fans, and partially filled out by interns.

The Wall Street Journal reported this summer that Trump told his good friend, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, he had received good feedback from his base whenever he attacked players for protesting during the anthem. ”

“This is a very winning, strong issue for me,” Trump told Jones. “Tell everybody, you can’t win this one. This one lifts me.”

Players who protested on Thursday will not face punishment from the league; the NFL and NFLPA are still trying to come to an agreement that will satisfy all parties. For now, it’s safe to assume Trump’s tweets on the topic will never stop.