Donald Trump has long proved to be a master of distraction and, as legal walls potentially close in on the former Apprentice host, today the President pushed supporters to rip into ESPN over its decision not to broadcast the playing of “the National Anthem before Monday Night Football.”
In a fundraising letter sent out Wednesday by the Trump 2020 reelection committee, the President centered his ire on the Disney-owned sports outlet and what he called its “spineless surrender to the politically correct liberal mob.”
Rolling out more of his greatest hits, Trump also threw in some love it or leave it rhetoric too. “If ‘America’ is too offensive for anyone in our country,” Trump told his base, asking them to join him in signing a petition against ESPN, “then what are they doing in America?”
In a proclamation that they must have known was sure to cause a backlash, the cabler announced on August 17 at a media event that they wouldn’t be airing the playing of the National Anthem before MNF. “We generally have not broadcasted the anthem, and I don’t think that will change this year,” said ESPN boss James Pitaro last week. “Our plan going into this year is to not broadcast the anthem.”
Even though most other nets have a similar policy for most games, the remark had the effect of throwing red meat to Trump, who has been pounding on the league and players over the social injustice protests for months. Red meat that Trump clearly is now throwing to his supporters as controversy and polls showing the impeachment gnashing Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.
Then again, as with many of Trump’s moves, today’s fundraising letter should come as no surprise. Trump lashed out at ESPN and the NFL protests last night in a rally in West Virginia.
“You’re proud of our country, you’re proud of our history, and unlike the NFL, you always honor and cherish our great American flag,” he told a cheering live crowd on Tuesday. “It was just announced by ESPN that rather than defending our anthem, our beautiful, beautiful national anthem and defending our flag, they’ve decided that they just won’t broadcast when they play the national anthem,” he continued in full flight. “We don’t like that.”
Watch that part of the Trump rally below:
“You are proud of our history. And unlike the NFL, you always honor and cherish our great American flag,” President Trump tells WV supporters at rally https://t.co/s3fdGxVJQv pic.twitter.com/smLLkuCrsu
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 21, 2018
Last night’s rally and today’s strategic letter will very likely not be the last time we’ll hear this kind of talk from Trump or even the NFL.
Bowing to the Trump pressure and assumed ratings decline of last season, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced a new national anthem policy for the 2018 season this spring that would require players and league personnel on the sideline to stand but give them the option to remain in the locker room if they don’t want to stand.
That tough stance didn’t last much longer than a playing of the Star-Spangled Banner.
In July, the league, in a joint statement with the NFL Players Association, announced that it was actually suspending the policy of fining or suspending players who don’t stand “at respect” for the national anthem, pending review.
Add to that chaos that the NFL regular season formally kicks off on September 6, which is perfect timing for the President to distract from his cadre of courtroom attending close associates and the probe by Robert Mueller – because that’s how the really big boys play.
On the other hand, ESPN did not respond to request for comment today from Deadline on Trump’s letter.