CALIFORNIA — Just in case you thought that Trump went way off the reservation in virtually calling former San Francisco Quarterback Colin Kaepernick an S.O.B. to loud crowd hoots at a campaign rally for Alabama Senate Republican candidate Luther Strange, he didn’t. The truth is that Trump has kept a vengeful close eye on the Kap-NFL debacle from day one. Last March at a post-victory rally in Louisville, Trump virtually commanded NFL owners not to even think about bringing him back into the league. To quote, “they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump.”
Any owner who dared to sign Kap almost certainly would get that dreaded nasty tweet, and probably a lot more Trump bombast about betrayal, and disgust, at daring to sign him. Trump has got a thing about Kap for several reasons, to him, perfectly good reasons. The first is the owners. He really didn’t have to saber rattle the owners with the threat of a “nasty tweet,” not one was going to sign him anyway. Several owners played footsie with the press about considering him for a possible spot on their team roster. But they made it crystal clear that the fans would be in wholesale revolt against their team if they signed him.
That’s another reason, the fans. There was just enough anecdotal stuff from informal polls, surveys, angry letters from fans and hostile talk about Kap from sports radio jocks to cement the owner’s tacit decision to make him NFL unemployable.
To many, this duck for cover by the owners behind the fans, seemed ludicrous. Since when have billionaire owners and their GMs ever considered what the fans wanted in their player personnel decisions? They don’t, but Kap was totally different since there appears to be just enough antipathy and rage against him from a big swatch of the NFL fanbase to make their claim of fan concern credible. Trump is aware of the legion of fans that disdain Kap and felt comfortable shouting to the Alabama campaign rally that the NFL owners should give him and anyone else who disrespects the flag and the national anthem a swift boot out of the NFL. The crowd ate it up because many of them are exactly the kind of fan that the NFL owners have in mind who would rebel against Kap on an NFL team.
There’s something else. Trump understands this about the NFL. He and the majority of the 32 owners are literally on the same team politically. They are conservative Republicans who often generously bankroll GOP presidential candidates, and with some, that included Trump. So, when Cowboy owner Jerry Jones demanded that Cowboy players must stand, presumably at rapt attention, during the playing of the national anthem, it was in keeping with Trump and the NFL’s long-standing, deep rah-rah of the military, the flag, and endless ritual patriotic displays before games.
Trump is holding Kap captive to the NFL’s rigid, unbending and unyielding arrogance of power, insular structure, and mindset that is virtually immune from any outside influence. This was evident in every challenge to the NFL elite, be it the threat of player strikes, contract negotiations, the dust-up over CTE trauma and dangers, the criticism it gets for shaking down cities and states to put taxpayers on the hook for everything from luxury boxes to new stadiums. Then there’s Washington owner Dan Snyder’s nose-thumb at anyone who tells him he must drop the offensive “Redskins” moniker.
The NFL has the muscle to keep their books hush hush, demand the players play two more games, thus radically increasing the hazard, knock down every chance it gets to slash the player’s revenue take, and not guarantee any long-term health benefits to the players.
Trump hasn’t uttered a mumbling word of criticism about any of that. And he won’t. Because he is in lockstep politically and emotionally with the NFL and the way they do business. And they are with him. If Kap is an S.O.B. to Trump, he’s an S.O.B. to the owners, even if they’d never say it publicly. And since many fans aren’t shy about calling Kap that publicly, and much worse, that effectively seals the deal ensuring that he’ll never play another down in the NFL.
Trump will do everything he can to make sure it stays that way. His name call of Kap just punctuated that.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is an associate editor of New America Media. His latest book is, The Trump Challenge to Black America (Middle Passage Press) will be released in August. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.