Trump threatens US sports leagues with one-man boycott if players take a knee

President's tweet came hours after Giants manager and some players took a knee during national anthem

John T. Bennett
Washington Bureau Chief
Tuesday 21 July 2020 15:01
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Donald Trump lashed out anew at players and coaches who kneel during the national anthem before sporting events, threatening to change the channel in a protest that could include many of his supporters.

The president criticised athletes and coaches for using the gesture to protest perceived police aggression towards black Americans and social inequality just hours after San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler and several players took a knee during the anthem before an exhibition game.

"Looking forward to live sports, but any time I witness a player kneeling during the National Anthem," Mr Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, "a sign of great disrespect for our Country and our Flag, the game is over for me!"

Mr Trump has been battling the league and its players for several years, just one of his myriad culture war foes since taking office in January 2017. He first lashed out when then-San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee and spoke out again the perceived police violence against black people.

That led to Mr Kaepernick eventually being, according to his camp, blackballed out of the league despite once being one of its top QBs. (NFL owners deny that charge.)

The president also has falsely claimed the NFL's television ratings are in decline, in large part, due to the pregame protests, even though Commissioner Roger Goodell once banned them.

The American people just cannot get enough of the NFL, with or without anthem kneeling. The league's TV ratings rose by 5 per cent last season, with all of its media partners – CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC seeing more eyeballs on games each broadcast.

In fact, it marked the second consecutive season in which NFL ratings rose.

Mr Trump made the same threat to not watch NFL action if players kneel in two June tweets as the league continues struggling to find a way to keep players healthy as the season fast approaches.

Mr Kapler, in his first season managing the Giants, is reportedly the first coach or manager of a major American sports team to take a knee.

"I wanted them to know that I wasn't pleased with the way our country has handled police brutality,'' Mr Kapler said after his team defeated the Oakland Athletics, 6-2, at Oracle Park. "I told them that I wanted to amplify their voices and I wanted to amplify the voice of the black community, and marginalized communities as well."

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