This NFL Hand-Wringing Has Always Been About Race

Last September, in Huntsville, Alabama, Donald Trump took the stage at yet another postelection campaign rally and revved up his fans with a rant about black football players.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag … say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now’?” Trump brayed. “‘Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!'”

Curious choice of words if you’re supposedly modeling how to honor the American flag, but the–se are the times we’re in, my friends.

Trump was most likely referring to Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started kneeling during the pregame national anthem. He did this to draw attention to racial oppression and inequality in the U.S., and he was soon joined by dozens of other players — most, but not all, of them black.

In response, the white president mocked them. You’ll never convince me the majority of Americans feel proud when their president acts like the town drunk sitting at the end of the bar.

The morning after Trump trash talked her son, Teresa Kaepernick showed up at the president’s favorite playground and tweeted her response to his SOB smear: “Guess that makes me a proud bitch!”

God bless the mothers.

At an earlier postelection rally, Trump had bragged that he was the reason Kaepernick no longer had a job with the NFL. “It was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump,” he huffed and puffed. “Do you believe that? I just saw that.”

As it turns out, he wasn’t far off about those fraidy-cat NFL owners. We now know this because New York Times reporters got their hands on a recording of a three-hour meeting last October of owners, players and league executives. They had gathered to talk about race.

They didn’t say it was about race, of course. These white, wealthy CEO types would never stand for that kind of language.

Instead, they complained about how Trump was chasing away fans and ruining their profit margins with his constant rants about their black players.

“This kneeling,” as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft put it.

Kraft, who has publicly declared himself a close friend of Trump’s, proceeded to prove otherwise. “The problem we have is, we have a president who uses that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America. It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”

Hmm. What “mission” might that be?

“Another fact I want to throw out there,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie chimed in. “Many of us have no interest in supporting President Trump.”

Well, wait.

“Yes, there are some.”

Wait one more time.

“There are some players who do, too.”

Deep breath, Jeffrey.

He went on to mention this “disastrous presidency.”

“Don’t quote me,” he said.

Oops.

Commissioner Roger Goodell started the session with, “Let’s make sure that we keep this confidential.”

Double oops, with hot fudge sauce from Smitten Kitchen.

Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula almost got my hopes up. “We need some kind of immediate plan because of what’s going on in society,” he said.

“Yes!” I almost shouted.

Aaaand then: “All of us now, we need to put a Band-Aid on what’s going on in the country.”

Yep, when it comes to healing the festering wound of racism in America, slap on a Band-Aid sheer strip and we’re good to go.

And there it is.

This has always been about race.

You can quote me on that.

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Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism.