Donald Trump has done the impossible now that he’s added the NFL to his list of bullying targets.
He’s united the NFL players and owners.
After his rant Friday night in Alabama calling for, among other things, “son of a bitches” who protest during the national anthem to be fired and for fans to leave the stadium if players protest, the reaction was swift Saturday from both owners and players.
They are together on this issue, arm-in-arm like brothers.
Commissioner Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith, the head of the NFLPA, both issued statements.
So did several owners, including John Mara and Steve Tisch, the co-owners of the New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, although it’s time for more owners to go on the record decrying Trump’s comments. Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II had a statement but only said he had nothing to add to Goodell’s comments.
None of the seven owners who gave Trump $1 million for his inauguration festivities, including Woody Johnson of the New York Jets who is now ambassador to England, have commented.
The other six are Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots, Shad Khan of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Dan Snyder of the Washington Redskins, Stan Kroenke of the Los Angeles Rams and Bob McNair of the Houston Texans.
Baltimore Orioles executive John Angelos did a series of eight tweets supporting the players.
And multiple players have gone on Twitter to express their outrage.
And even Colin Kaepnerick’s mother, Teresa, tweeted, “I texted my sisters. You are not going to believe this, the President just called me a bitch.’’
You’ve probably read many of the comments already, but they showed how the NFL was quick to respond.
Mara and Tisch called Trump’s comments “inappropriate, offensive and divisive.’’
“We’re proud of our players, the vast majority of whom use their platform to make a positive difference in our society,’’ they said.
The 49ers’ York called the comments “callous and offensive.’’
The Dolphins’ Ross said: “Our country needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness.’’
Goodell said Trump’s comments “demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players.’’
Smith said: “No man or woman should ever have to choose a job that forces them to surrender their rights.’’
Reggie Bush tweeted: “I’ll take a knee with Colin Kaepernick before I’ll stand with Donald Trump.’’
Former Jaguar Maurice Jones-Drew said: “Now is the time for Goodell and the the owners to choose the First Amendment and the NFL Players over ignorance and intolerance.’’
Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin said this could be a unifying moment for the sports world and added, “I will resist the urge to return hate with hate and instead react with love and compassion with those who cannot.’’
Raider punt Marquette King stood in front of the White House with a small made sign on which he printed, “Looks like this ‘son of a bitch’ revoked my invitation, too.’’ (The Raiders are in the Washington area because they play the Redskins.)
King was referring to the fact that Trump revoked the Golden State Warriors’ invitation to the White House after Stephen Curry said he didn’t want to come.
The Warriors issued a statement that they will be in Washington in February and will celebrate “equality, diversity and inclusion’’ without visiting the White House.
The NCAA basketball champion North Carolina team also said they wouldn’t visit.
Now the question is what will happen Sunday during the national anthem in NFL stadiums.
It would be a perfect gesture if every player in the league joined the protest. And if the owners did, too, to show they back the players.
Let’s hope the Smith and the other NFLPA executives are contacting player reps this weekend to coordinate the effort.
One tweet that really caught my eye was by political writer John Harwood.
“Lots of white NFL stars have a chance to be Pee Wee Reese this weekend,’’ he said.
That was the reference to the time that Reese put his arm on Jackie Robinson to show his solidarity with the player who faced so much intolerance while integrating Major League Baseball in 1947.
There was even a statue erected outside the Brooklyn minor league’s club park a few years ago showing the two men together, although it is uncertain when and where Reese made the gesture and no photograph of it has ever surfaced.
Reese’s gesture was so significant because he was a white southerner, and many of his friends didn’t even want him to play with a black man.
As Harwood said, it’s time for all the white players in the league to be like Pee Wee Reese. Although a handful of white players have become involved, the players are part of teams and the white players should stand with the black players in expressing their outrage.
It would be ironic if more fans tuned in to watch on TV. Trump said the ratings had declined “massively.’’ They’re down, but not massively.
Let’s hope that all the players use the opportunity to stand up for what’s right.
Granted, it’s not going to stop Trump from hurling insults. He is a classic bully, and that is what bullies do.
But the NFL players have a unique platform and should take advantage of it.
And, oh yes, the owners could do one thing: They should make sure that Kaepernick gets hired — and soon.
He is a living example of a player, in effect, getting fired for protesting.
The league continues to try to claim that teams are making a football decision in not signing Kaepernick.
Let’s get real. Have you watched quarterback play the first two weeks of the season? There is no way he isn’t good enough to play in the league.
By keeping him out of the league, they are doing what Trump wants.
They also should stand up to the bloated, orange-haired bully.