President Donald Trump today returned to his NFL obsession by tweet-blaming the opening game ratings drop on player protests, but his former staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman wasn’t buying it: In an interview on MSNBC, the ex-Apprentice contestant said of her old boss’ gripe, “It’s not about the anthem, it’s about race.”
Newman called Trump’s repeated attacks on the NFL show “an obsession with insulting very accomplished African Americans.” She said the protests, in which some NFL players either take a knee during the National Anthem or wait it out in the locker room, “are about social justice…and [Trump] has made it about patriotism.”
“Really, at the core of it is Donald Trump poking and prodding accomplished African Americans,” she told MSNBC’s Alex Witt, adding, “Donald Trump wants to start racial dissension because it galvanizes his base in a way that no other topic does. It’s not about the anthem, it’s about race.”
Newman’s comments were in response to Trump’s tweet this morning about about the ratings for Thursday night’s rain-delayed game between the Philly Eagles and Atlanta Falcons. As reported by Deadline Friday, the first official game of the NFL’s new season brought NBC 19 million viewers, a 13% drop in broadcast audience from last year’s NFL opener between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs.
“Wow, NFL first game ratings are way down over an already really bad last year comparison,” Trump tweeted this morning. “Viewership declined 13%, the lowest in over a decade. If the players stood proudly for our Flag and Anthem, and it is all shown on broadcast, maybe ratings could come back? Otherwise worse!”
This year’s game was rain-delayed, kicking off after 9 pm ET. Only Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett took the bench in protest during the national anthem.