The Trump-NFL “debate” is a reflection of how polarized Americans have become in the Trump era.
If the early polling is any indication, a majority of Americans don’t agree with Donald Trump’s position that NFL players who kneel during the national anthem should be fired.
Yet his base loves it.
According to an Ipsos/Reuters poll, Americans disagree by 57 to 29 percent that the players should be fired for kneeling.
According to the Cato Institute poll, the number is 61 to 38.
That pretty much mirrors the Trump disapproval-approval rating. In effect, Trump’s comments were more red meat for his base in the 30-percent range and showed the split in America.
And it was reflected in the difference in feelings of Democrats and Republicans on the issue.
According to Ipsos/Reuters, 82 percent of Democrats don’t want the players fired. Only 29 percent of GOP fans feel that way.
Cato has the split at 65 to 19 and also has an age-group split. A majority of Americans over 65 (57 percent) favor firing the players. Of the Americans under 30, 71 percent think they should not be fired.
There’s also an education split. Of the fans without college degrees, 44 percent want them fired. Only 32 percent with college degrees and 26 percent of those with postgraduate degrees want them fired.
And support for the players seems to be growing. While 58 percent think the players should be required to stand, 40 percent say they support the players. Last year, only 28 percent did according to Reuters.
And 53 percent don’t think it is appropriate for Trump to weigh in on the issue.
Why Trump decided to comment after only a handful of players knelt in the first two games is an unanswered question.
There is speculation that it was just another example of him pandering to his base. But there’s also talk that there is a personal element to him knocking the NFL because former commissioner Pete Rozelle told Trump the NFL owners would never approve him buying a team and he’s trying to settle an old score.
Trump tried to use the USFL to sue his way into the NFL, but when the USFL was only awarded $1 in damages, all he wound up doing was killing the USFL.
He bid on the Buffalo Bills after Ralph Wilson died, but was outbid by Terry Pegula.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if the protests will have much effect on the NFL.
While some fans say they are done with the NFL and have even burned NFL gear, they seem to be a small minority if the Green Bay-Chicago game was any indication. There didn’t seem to be many empty seats at Lambeau Field.
Still, some fans critical of the players have gone over the line, like when Delanie Walker of the Tennessee Titans and his family got death threats.
And if the TV ratings continue to decline, it is uncertain whether the protests will be a factor.
According to a J.D. Power poll last year that was widely misreported, only three percent of fans say they weren’t watching because of Colin Kaepernick.
Much of the decline probably comes from the NFL shooting itself in the foot with poor leadership.
And there is no way the NFL is going to start firing players en masse. They made an example of Kaepernick and called it a day.
They won’t even admit that Kaepernick wasn’t signed because he started the protest. The fact that Mike Glennon opened the season as the Bears starter is just one of many examples of how absurd that statement is. There’s no way Kaepernick isn’t good enough to be in the NFL.
Now the question is what the players will do next and whether Fox’s announcement that it will stop televising the national anthem will take some steam out of the controversy.
There will certainly be fewer players kneeling this week. Some felt they made their point last week. The default position may be standing and locking arms the way the Packers and Bears did Thursday night. Or kneeling before the anthem and then standing during the anthem the way the Dallas Cowboys did last week. Or just standing.
The NFL also was careful not to get into a war of words with Trump. Spokesman Joe Lockhart said some of Trump’s statements were inaccurate but didn’t elaborate.
They seem to be hoping that Trump will go onto other things.
But the basic issue of how young black men are treated by police won’t go away.
Jonathan Casillas of the New York Giants said he hopes to play four or five more years, “But at the end of the day, I’m going to be a black man in American.’’
“I’m 30 years old, I drive a Mercedes,’’ he said. “When I get in my car and a cop gets behind me, I’m very, very nervous. Don’t know why. It was the same exact thing when I was 16, 17 years old.’’
He said many times he’s been stopped for no reason, but when the police find out he’s a Giants player, they start a conversation.
Of being stopped for no reason, he said to a mostly white group of reporters, “Honestly, guys, have you ever been in a situation like that? Ever?’’
We can probably guess the answer to that question.