BY Art Thiel 07:00PM 09/23/2017

Thiel: Stick to sports? Trump sticks it to sports

President Trump’s attack on the NFL was as pointless and irrelevant as it was inane, serving nothing but disrupting a popular industry for his self-aggrandizement.

Coach Bill Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft presented President Trump with a jersey at the White House. / Boston Magazine

The same week it became public that Seahawks DE Michael Bennett co-authored a well-reasoned, respectful letter to the NFL seeking a partnership for an awareness month on social justice, President Trump publicly called him a son of bitch for his anthem protest.

Congratulations to Bennett and his NFL colleagues. It worked. Awareness is suddenly global. Just not in the civil fashion intended.

Of his own reckless volition, Trump Friday finally crisped Twitter’s #sticktosports hashtag by wading into a pool of oil with his oral flamethrower.

He profanely castigated peaceful political dissent by NFL players, suggested owners were negligent, told fans to throw away their ticket money by walking out, encouraged more head-knocking violence despite all sports and the military having accepted the medical science explaining traumatic brain injury, and through his own insatiable vanity, mis-characterized the drop in NFL TV ratings.

On Saturday morning, Trump followed by “dis-inviting” Steph Curry to the modern White House custom of honoring sports champions. The Golden State Warriors quickly responded by declining to attend, and will head to Washington, D.C., for a potential alternative celebration.

For a leader focused on failing on North Korea, failing on health care, failing on climate change, failing on Iran and failing to stop Russia’s war on the American political system, it is remarkable that he had time to fail the one prominent U.S. industry that is reliant on inclusiveness and diversity for its success — major spectator pro sports.

He is nothing if not consistent. When he can assert that neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were “fine people,” yet Bennett and his fellow anthem protesters are SOBs, he remains true to his gaslighting tactics that backward is forward, in is out and night is day.

Trump’s unhinged rant during a political rally in Alabama that had nothing to do with sports provoked a predictable social-media firestorm that will probably have a physical embellishment Sunday when NFL players decide how to respond at stadiums across the country.

Seahawks RB Richard Sherman was quick with his feelings in a Saturday morning tweet:

The behavior of the President is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. If you do not Condemn this divisive Rhetoric you are Condoning it!!

Even Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has a seventh-degree black belt in tut-tutting, had to clear his throat, although using the word “unfortunate” was insipid:

“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”

Goodell walks a tight rope. Eight of his bosses, the team owners, donated $7.25 million to Trump’s inauguration. Three threw in $1 million apiece: Jerry Jones of Dallas, Robert Kraft of New England and New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, whom Trump named ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Instead of hiding behind Goodell, hearing from these guys would be worthwhile. Obviously, they’re entitled to support any politician, but Trump’s pointless yet provocative interjection has roiled many in the owners’ labor force, potentially to distraction.

None of the owners are so foolish to attempt to halt free expression. But now the disruption has amped the intensity to the point where it can divide teams, fans in the stands and stimulate boycotts on both sides, Trump’s rant implicitly permits his supporters to become agitators, and forces coaches and front-office staffs to devote time to managing the fallout.

Certainly some fans will put teams and NFL sponsors on notice: Where do you stand on Trump’s sports condemnations? Imagine how the owners see their investment in Trump now.

Trump’s assault on dissent over racial inequality is particularly destructive in sports because so many athletes and coaches for decades have come from around the world to be a part of the American industry that eagerly offers opportunities for everyone in an athletic meritocracy. That doesn’t mean sports is free of discrimination, but the chance to succeed on one’s own abilities has been more of an established part of the culture than in almost any other high-profile industry.

The NFL workforce is 70 percent African American. The NBA is about 90 percent. MLB is dominated by players of Latino heritage. As white as the National Hockey League is, it needs green-card owners from Europe nearly as much as MLS needs them from around the world in the most popular sport of all.

South Korean golfers nearly own the LPGA tour. Boxing is dominated by Latinos and Eastern Europeans. PGA golf has more champions from more countries than any other sport.

Trump’s red-meat panderings to a political rally of his no-matter-what supporters did almost nothing to move the needle for him, but they inflamed many, fans s well as participants, who, with limited success, have been attempting to keep their eyes on the ball.

Said Trump to loud applause in Huntsville: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired.”

No, I wouldn’t love that. If African Americans don’t seek redress of grievances on a stage where they have great influence, where do they go? If Bennett doesn’t take action after he is pinned and handcuffed, for no good reason, to a Las Vegas sidewalk with a cop’s firearm pointed to his head, what does he do?

Fired? This isn’t a lame reality-TV show, but Trump keeps playing the presidency as one because he has zero awareness of, or concern over, anyone or anything that does not generate ardor for him.

A peaceful, silent anthem gesture has no measure of disrespect compared with Trump’s desecration of the presidency.

Transcript of Trump’s Friday remarks on the NFL



  • ReebHerb

    Art. Get over it. Hillary is not going to be president. The Donald kicked her to the curb the same as Pres. Obama did in 2008. Let’s have the players strike and get it over with the same as the strike at UW back in the ’60s. What did that change? Your tirade is something else. Even the New Deal blogger, Joel Connelly, at your old paper recognizes the DNC is in big trouble. As an impartial member of the 4th Estate, why don’t you bring up the time Bernie Bickerstaff raised hell when his minor daughter and friends were stopped for a DWB? The story is very instructive.

    • Kevin

      This has nothing to do with Hillary CLinton. Your inability to see the moral bankruptcy of the current occupant of the White House and his absolute lack of truly American values says much about you.

      • ReebHerb

        Thank you. Art, Michael, and you voted for the pay to play foundation. Can’t get any lower than America for sale. Art made it about Hillary by making it about The Donald.

        • Effzee

          What are you talking about? Art didn’t make anything about Hillary, and the Donald made it about the Donald. You people sure make it easy with your lack of comprehension skills. It would be better if you didn’t try to comment on things you don’t even attempt to understand. Didn’t you already swear off the Hawks and NFL anyways? Can’t stay away can ya? Did you read Pete Carroll’s open letter from this evening? Bet that’ll get your panties in a twist!

          • art thiel

            In defending the indefensible, people get desperate.

        • Kevin

          You absolutely have got to be kidding. Have you paid any attention (obviously not) at how Flynn and Manafort have monetized their relations to Trump? How his cabinet secretaries have used taxpayer funds for personal purposes (flights)? How Trump suddenly and quickly had his trademarks approved in China? And which foundation has PROVEN to have acted illegally in a court of law? The answer to the last is Trump, not Clinton. Take your head out of that dark place it is residing in.

        • art thiel

          Breaking news: Reeb. He’s the president. He said the words, done the deeds and is steadily attempting to undermine the Constitution. Hillary is nowhere.

    • art thiel

      Reeb, this is not about the election. It’s about debasing the office of the presidency and disrupting industries with behavior that wouldn’t be acceptable to your mother, my mother or Trump’s mother.

      • ReebHerb

        You set the tone in the article and got push back. Not all of us our snow flakes. On the other hand, Bennett has provoked a discussion. Nothing guarantees it will come out to his liking. You know how the next step, a players strike, will change the situation.

        • Effzee


        • disqus_aEA4p3zFXu

          So be it. Stand with your great divider ReebHerb. He’s apparently blameless in your eyes.

        • art thiel

          I set no tones for the national discussion; I respond to the news of the day. Trump’s actions are worthy of condemnation.

    • disqus_aEA4p3zFXu

      Go to Fox sports then already. The strawman is obvious and you have no interest in making a real contribution to the discussion. What the hell does this have to do with Hillary or the DNC?

    • Walk away. Just walk quietly away with what is left of your dignity.

    • domdog

      Hillary is not present in the issues here. Name calling such as, “snowflake”? Your showing your weakness here ReebHerb, its not pretty see.
      Your entrance into the conversation is a personal attack. Weakness breeds fear, fear breeds attacks. Maybe take a deep breath gather your thoughts and add them in to the conversation.

  • PokeyPuffy

    Thanks Art! Great summary of a wild day in sports/politics. Notwithstanding the regressive worldview behind his statements, I believe Trump has made a bit of a political miscalculation here. The NFL and NBA have more populist cred than he does by a country mile. Lookin forward to seeing his approval ratings next week.

    • art thiel

      His base of 30 percent simply does not care.

      • PokeyPuffy

        yeah the 30% (i.e. underemployed non-college educated whites) are holding steady, it is the additional 8-12% that hangs in the balance. There was a great recent piece in the Wall st Journal about younger urban republicans, who are slipping away from that base as they see our dear leader’s true stripes. I’m sure this kind of nonsense pushes them out further

        • art thiel

          From what I’ve read, there’s some erosion, but it prompts Trump to have another staged rally to counter the news. Patience required.

      • Tman

        Does he have a base?

        He paid actors to pretend to be supporters when he announced his candidacy after gliding down the escalator of his gilded palace. Is that trump property bankrupt, too?

        There will always be an audience for hate speech. Hitler moved a nation with it.

  • dingle

    Every day, I simply cannot believe that this deranged howler monkey is our Commander in Chief.

  • John Brown

    Oh great! I want to read about football, but I get politics instead. Might as well go back to fb. GO HAWKS!!!

    • See Ya Later. This stuff is important. More important than a silly game. This is about men and women and our lives.

      • John Brown

        You assume I don’t care about what happens to my fellow Americans. I recognize the importance of the issue. My point is that sports is a few hours break from all that. But I guess that too is gone.

    • Steed

      Blame the Dotard in Chief, he is the one who decided to attack the NFL to change the subject away from his failed presidency. It seems to be working. He lacks basic competence at most things, but is very good creating a lot of media attention around whatever he wants the subject to be.

      • art thiel

        Distraction has always been a vital asset to demagogues.

    • art thiel

      It’s still there, John. Real life doesn’t always stay in its lane.

      • John Brown

        True as that is, I don’t come to your site to read about the issues I had just spent hours reading and discussing with my fellow countrymen on social media. I come to read about sports to take a break. But hey, I can talk politics all day long.

  • ljstonebraker

    Hail to the Clown in Chief

  • disqus_aEA4p3zFXu

    Trump is ruining everything before our eyes. He never shuts up, and never stops campaigning or complaining. The narcissist/racist is a complete and utter failure and it’s now clear that 30% of Americans in his personality cult will cheer him on regardless of what he says or does.

    The Republican party is allowing this to happen before our eyes but in the end, if Trump has his way, we’re all gonna lose. No one will stand up to him. In fact, he’s even being encouraged. Shortly after the Charlottesville protests, David Duke thanked Trump for his “honesty and courage,” in not condemning the neo-Nazis for the deadly violence. When a president enables and encourages white supremacists and they’re the ones cheering the loudest for him it’s to be expected that people of color including professional athletes will take issue with him. Now, it’s only going to grow. None of us should be silent in these times. Thank you for your passion Art. Go Mueller.

    • art thiel

      I’d like to continue to write about sports and certainly will. But it cannot be separated from some of the real-world crises faced by many.

  • Tman

    Isn’t it true sports has always been about politics? Were the Olympic games founded to bring opposing political forces together peacefully? What was the purpose of the Goodwill Games in Seattle?

    Why does the President throw out the first ball? What is the purpose of the Color Guard? The playing of the National Anthem?

    How many will remember the result or the score of the Seahawks-Titans Game 3 weeks from now?

    How many will remember both teams waiting until after the anthem was played to take the field?

    Win or lose, sports is always about symbolic politics. We feel pride when the seahawks win, subdued, if not defeated, when they a community.

    In sports, its just a game. In politics, its life. We have to live it. Everyday. In joy or in fear.

    Take your pick.

  • Michael Galey

    It’s so sad to see this very good blog turn into a Presidential hate fest. Goodbye Art Thiel. I’ve been a reader and have posted comments to this and the PI for a long time. I’ve been up here in the Pacific Northwest for over 35 years and have been a 12th man fan since there was Huddles a mascot which I loathed. To say that only one player was singled out of President Trumps mouth is a stretch here is what he tweeted, “We’re proud of our country. We respect our flag. Wouldn’t you love to see one of our NFL owners when someone disrespects our flag to say, ‘Get that son of a b***h off the field right now … he’s fired!’” So where is Michael Bennets name? As for the flakes that think D T is an idiot try to fathom the thinking whilst in Vietnam to have to call in where the hostile fire is coming from before returning fire? Or eliminating Cigarettes from our Combat Rations due to being unhealthy for you! We used to say that fighting for peace is liken to fornicating for virginity!! What about other bone headed actions have other president’s have done? The National Standard is sacred to me and to be like those flower children and burn it or walk on it is an affront to the dignity that I have for it. As a two tour Vietnam veteran I become so enraged that people would dare to become disloyal and ignore what that standard stands for. If there is any hope of uniting this country then get involved with your city officials to weed out the criminal cops and listen, read up and act on civilized protest to unjustified actions. Best Regards in the future Art Thiel, your still a friend SGT (ret) Michael T Galey

    • Starri98

      Michael Galey i am your replacement as you say goodbye and proud to be so as i only found this site BECAUSE of the protests by athletes (finally) against injustice in their country. I repeatedly have said and will continue to say that america, among its numerous faults, is an extremely petty and insecure country that LOVES to fight.

      Mr. Colin Kaepernick began his admirable and essential protest by taking to his knee in reaction to brutal police murders of African american CITIZENS at an insidious and alarming rate and WITHOUT justice for them or their loved ones. Not once have i heard or read anything as a statement directly from Colin to say different. I completely agree with Colin and i too will NOT stand for a flag or anthem that represents MY destruction for exercising my birth rights as an American born citizen. As a free, conscious, intentional, and GOD created and GOD serving human being, i will never choose another’s ideas as my own. I am equally ferocious about NEVER seeking or requiring neither permission nor approval to do the things I KNOW are right. If and when the flag and anthem truly represents ALL citizens as human beings without conditions other than truth, honor, dignity, and respect there is absolutely no reason to stand.

      as for your statement that the blog is akin to a “presidential hate fest” i don’t agree with your assessment but i can think of few people who deserve it more for no other reason than he earned the hate all on his own. I don’t hate him because it would require too much effort that he is completely unworthy of. For me he is an embarrassment, ignorant, devoid of humanity, crass, divisive, cowardly, devious, pompous, shameful, and obstinate. In other words he is the presiDUNCE who most definitely is an extremely poor representation of the nation to the world.

      Personally President Barack H. OBAMA never brought feelings of shame or embarrassment for me even when i disagreed with him.

      • Michael Galey

        Mazol Tov my friend, enjoy this site it is the best there is when it comes to the Sea Hawks. I too support the right to protest and have given 27 years in that defense. However, there are some things that are held in the highest esteem and that is the the crux of my protest. Our Flag (Old Glory) is our Standard that should be respected and the playing of our National Anthem should be a time for reflection at how great this Republic is and how long our Republic has lasted despite the other countries didn’t give us a chance of a snowball in Hades to succeed. My President whom ever holds the office should be respected and lately not since George W Bush has there been such rancor to the sitting President. If the disparagement of Black’s being singled out that should be challenged at a civic consul meeting with the LEO in charge and get to the heart of the matter and You and I know completely well what that is. If y’all want to discuss this in depth I happy to sit and write. Just PM me at my Facebook page. Art Thiel your last post that Coach Carroll had a “Hug Fest” was spot on I am still a reader and maybe a comment might be back in the works.

  • DAWG

    Thank you, Art. Keep it up. Everything old is new again.

  • Will Ganschow

    But how do you really feel Art?