How professional sports can handle Trump

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The National Football League and the National Basketball Association have taken completely different approaches to President Donald Trump. While the two leagues have different fan bases and a different balance of power between athletes and owners, it is fair to say the NBA has done a much better job in handling the challenges of a president who delights in using African-American athletes as pawns in his race-baiting and culture wars.

While the NFL owners have tried to mollify Trump by announcing fines for teams if players don’t stand for the national anthem, Trump is not to be satisfied. He wants to dump barrels of salt in this wound so that the white-grievance-agitated base will applaud. If Trump had his druthers, he would drag every last African-American athlete out of the locker room to stand and sing. He called players “sons of bitches” – to the delight of an overwhelmingly white audience. He accuses them of being anti-military and anti-flag. (Some of the players have actually served in the military, unlike the “bone spur” president who avoided military service. Incidentally, Trump hasn’t had the decency to visit troops in combat zones. Is he chicken?)

And he’s willing to lie about and attack Philadelphia Eagles players who did not kneel during the season. Philadelphia’s mayor blasted Trump. “Cities need to stand up in this country, and many mayors have stood up in this country against this tyrant,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. “He is trying to turn this country into a dictatorship by ignoring the courts and by saying and doing what he wants, by ignoring the Department of Justice . . . and in the end this will all come to a conclusion, and it won’t be a good ending for him.”

Meanwhile, arguably the greatest athlete of our time, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James – who called Trump in a tweet a “bum” after Trump withdrew the invite for the champion Golden State Warriors last year – struck back. After Trump’s political stunt with the Eagles, James said neither team in the championship finals “wants the invite” to the White House. Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry seconded that view.

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Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith joins Cheddar to discuss the latest NFL news. He reacts to Cam Newton’s comments, and subsequent apology, that a female reporter asking about routes was “funny.” Smith says the comment was not appropriate but that the apology was real. He hopes the reporter and women around the world will accept Newton at his word. Smith’s former team, the Dallas Cowboys, and owner Jerry Jones took a knee before the anthem during the game against the Rams last weekend. Smith, who won the Super Bowl three times with the team, says it was a “beautiful thing.” He says the team met about the decision to kneel and made the decision collectively. He also takes offense to people who say football players should just stick with football and not get involved in politics or human rights issues. Plus, Smith’s thoughts on CTE. He’s very concerned about the brain damage in players and doesn’t think this issue is going away anytime soon. In addition, Emmit Smith talks to us about his partnership with Michelin and National Teen Driver Safety Week. He explains why he would never get into a self-driving car. Full Transcript: Well, our next guest is NFL all time leading, a rusher a three time Super Bowl champion and Pro Football Hall of Famer. We are so happy to have with us, Emmitt Smith. Emmitt thanks for joining us. Thank you all for having me on your show. A lot to talk about with you today of course you’re here promoting National Teen Driver Safety Week with Michelin. We want to talk to you a bit about that, before we get to that though big news with the NFL right about Cam Newton, of course, Panthers quarterback, and the sexist comments that he made to a female reporter on Wednesday, and then Dennen dropping their partnership with him on Thursday. What do you make of his comment? Well, obviously his comments were not appropriate. And I thought the contrite reply, and the apology last night was, was real. I thought it really hit him that he did something that was not appropriate and he’s paying a price for it, and now it’s just a matter of watching, how you respond to everything else from this point forth. So, it is, what it is right now, and hopefully the female reporter accepts his apologies, and all the females around the country accept his apology as well. Now is a matter of watching him and seeing him where he goes from here. Can he grow from there? And can he stay focus on, on quarterbacking? And try not to make the same mistake again. Emmitt, I also want to get your thoughts on the protests that have been happening in the NFL. Of course, you’re a cowboy, and last week Jerry Jones and the Cowboys, the whole team, essentially locked arms and kneeled before the anthem, before rising for the Star-Spangled Banner. What are your thoughts on the protests that are happening in the NFL right now, and also would you, if you were playing today how would you handle it? Well at the end of the day, just look at this, from a holistic standpoint. You’re talking about the National Football League entirely, to my owners and team members, players. The thing, the beautiful thing, if you want to look at it, the beautiful thing in doing this protest, they all did it collectively, everybody does something together. They sat down in a meeting room, and discuss what they were going to do, all of them, which is a beautiful thing, they came together, come together, to do something protest peacefully and do it in the right way, and do it in the most respectful way that they possibly can. Now everybody outside, is going to dissect it, no matter what. But the reality of the fact is, they did not do it lightly. It took some thought, it took some time, it took a lot of different people here in different views, from every side, and coming together, say, “Okay, this is what we’re going to do as a team.” Because football is a team sport, and we try to do everything collectively together as a team. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but most of the time everything is

Media: Cheddar TV

Warriors teammate Kevin Durant added his own take: “What else do you expect Trump to do? When somebody says they don’t want to come to the White House, he disinvites them so the photo op don’t look bad. We get it at this point. It’s good that guys are sticking to what they believe in and what they want to do. Like guys said before me, I’m sure whoever wins this series won’t be going.”

And then Warriors coach Steve Kerr, an eloquent and outspoken advocate on issues such as gun safety, said, “I think the president has made it clear he’s going to try to divide us – all of us – in this country for political gain. That’s just the way it is. I think we all look forward to the day when we can go back to just having a celebration of athletic achievement and celebrate Americans for their achievement, their good deeds.” He noted, “The irony is that the Eagles have been nothing but fantastic citizens in their own community. They’ve done so much good. I’ve read a lot about their team. Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Long – these guys are studs. They’re amazing. So it will be nice when we can just get back to normal in three years.”

The NBA has figured it out – they are the cool kids, the stars; Trump is a divisive politician, a petty narcissist who would gladly humiliate athletes and their teams. The NBA athletes, encouraged by their league, are engaged in all sorts of causes to make their communities better, including protesting police violence against African-Americans. They ignore Trump and are the better for it. They’ve built a rock-solid following that is racially, economically and politically diverse – and supportive of athletes who decline to play Trump’s noxious political game.

Meanwhile, the NFL owners – who botched responses to domestic violence and brain-injury controversies before Trump came along – get played for suckers. After the latest Trump stunt, they collectively should decline to go to the White House during the remainder of Trump’s term, reaffirm that players can do as they please with regard to the anthem (the number of kneelers declined precipitously during the last season) and, like the NBA, denounce racial divisiveness. At least the owners might earn some respect rather than appearing disloyal to their players and patsies in Trump’s race-baiting games. Between the owners’ pandering to Trump and their insufficient response to brain injuries of their players, many fans are now or will become ex-fans. If they haven’t already, they’ll find other sports to watch.

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