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Editorials

Trump pushes politics of division

The Pittsburgh Steelers' side of the field is nearly empty during the playing of the national anthem before the game against the Bears on Sunday in Chicago. The Pittsburgh Steelers players did not come out to the field during the anthem.
The Pittsburgh Steelers' side of the field is nearly empty during the playing of the national anthem before the game against the Bears on Sunday in Chicago. The Pittsburgh Steelers players did not come out to the field during the anthem.

There’s one certainty in the controversy over professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem before sporting events: Voice an opinion, and someone else will tell you you’re wrong.

Many people are frustrated to see politics intrude on the world of sports, a form of entertainment that most of us regard as a safe haven from matters political.

Thank the president for leading us here.

Federal disaster recovery efforts are underway in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, the last of which we are told might not have electricity for months. A new Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is slated for a Senate vote this week. A nuclear-armed North Korea threatens U.S. allies and interests in the Pacific.

Judging from the president’s Twitter account and public statements, the issue that most preoccupied him this weekend was the political views of some professional athletes. Trump spent the weekend calling out those handful of players who have decided to kneel at the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out – he’s fired,’ ” Trump said to cheers Friday at a political rally in Alabama. “Fired!”

With that, Trump showed yet again that in a divided America, he will use fiery rhetoric to drive the wedge deeper if it suits his purposes.

His words made matters worse.

It was not about the athletes or their message. Trump makes no mention of why these athletes might be making this statement; he gives it no credence whatsoever.

To him, it is simply Trump and the Real Americans vs. the unpatriotic SOBs of the NFL.

On Sunday at Soldier Field, after days of Trump’s railing against pro athletes and their politics, all but one of Pittsburgh Steelers players did not come out of the locker room for the playing of the national anthem before the game.

At stadiums around the country – and at London’s Wembley Stadium – many more players than usual were kneeling. Some owners and coaches made gestures of solidarity with their players, as well.

In the stands and at home, fans were angry. Some said they will boycott the NFL, others said the players have the right to express themselves, because this is America.

We understand the anger. We stand for the playing of the national anthem, as do most NFL players and fans. We expect that the NFL will lose viewers, at least temporarily, as people show their displeasure.

It’s fine for reality TV stars to rail against pro athletes taking a knee during the national anthem. We need presidents to lead on issues such as federal tax policy, reforming our nation’s health care system, helping hurricane victims and averting nuclear war.

Instead, this weekend, our president decided to lead us into a divisive debate over how a few professional athletes observe a pregame ceremony, pushing politics further into a place where many of us prefer they not intrude.

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