While demanding that NFL players stop protesting police brutality, Trump invoked a dog whistle about how big and menacing black men are.
Although professional football is a beloved staple of American culture, Trump clearly believes that pitting black athletes against “the flag” and “the troops” is red meat for his bigoted base. And Thursday morning, on Fox News, he essentially confirmed this.
When asked about his comments in Alabama that when team owners see a player kneeling, they should “get that son of a bitch off the field,” he let slip a clear dog whistle in his response:
— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 28, 2017
TRUMP: Well, I have so many friends that are owners. And they’re in a box. I mean, I’ve spoken to a couple of them, they say, “We are in a situation where we have to do something." I think they’re afraid of their players, you wanna know the truth. And I think it’s disgraceful. And they’ve gotta be tough, and they’ve gotta be smart. Because if you look at the ratings, the ratings are going way down, the stadiums are — I’ve seen a couple of stadiums over the last few weeks, they are losing — there are a lot of empty seats. I couldn’t even believe it. But when it comes to the respect of our nation, when it comes to the respect of our anthem and our flag, they have no choice. You have to have people stand with respect.
There is a lot to unpack in this quote. Put aside the fact that Trump’s claim that ratings are “way down” for the NFL is completely false, and that Trump still does not seem to understand that the players are not actually protesting the anthem or the flag.
But the most revealing part was when Trump said he thinks the owners are “afraid of their players.”
Trump has trafficked in the ugliest kinds of stereotypes about people of color for years. He led the racist birther movement against President Barack Obama, accusing him of being "foreign" because of his name and skin color. He launched his presidential campaign by calling Mexicans rapists and criminals. He has smeared all Muslims, including American citizens, as dangerous.
And now he is sending a clear message that black athletes who silently kneel to protest policy brutality against their own communities are somehow threatening.
Trump and his base are clearly invested in this caricature of black men. It is yet another demonstration of Trump’s lack of empathy and cuts to the heart of why, rather than taking the time to understand the causes and concerns that drove the protesting NFL players, his solution is simply to get those “sons of bitches” off the field and out of his sight.