Trump’s anthem, health comments give NFL players a reason to protest

Expect the president’s comments Friday during a speech in Alabama — in which he encouraged NFL owners to ‘fire’ those who protest the national anthem and essentially said ‘So what?’ to growing concerns about players’ long-term health — to backfire.

I would imagine, for some time now, there have been NFL players who wanted to sit during the national anthem but lacked the audacity to do so.

Perhaps they feared the negative attention that goes with it, or the endorsement money they’d forgo, or 32 teams saying “no thanks” once free agency rolled around.

I also imagine that, come Sunday, some of those players wilI sit when the The Star Spangled Banner blares. And it will be our president who gave them the courage.


Seahawks @ Tennessee, 1:05 p.m., Ch. 13

During a rally in Alabama on Friday night, Donald Trump insulted NFL players on two fronts. First, he encouraged owners to fire those “son of a bitch” players who choose to protest the anthem, adding that fans should immediately storm out of the stadium if they bear witness to a demonstration. Then he mocked the NFL’s safety measures — saying officials were ruining the game by giving 15-yard penalties for “beautiful tackles.”

Post-playing-career health, as you likely know, is a growing concern for professional football players. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) has been linked to depression, chronic headaches, cognitive dysfunction — even suicide.

Meanwhile, a recent article published in the Journal of American Medical Association revealed that, of the 111 former NFL brains donated to a neuropathology study, 110 had CTE. And Trump essentially just said, “So what?”

OK, maybe he didn’t say that exactly, but that’s how many players will interpret it. They’ll infer that the man in the country’s highest office places entertainment value over their well-being.

Any would-be protester looking for cover just received it. Don’t want athletes mixing sports and politics? Then don’t have a politician giving ill-informed sports opinions.

To be clear — this column isn’t an endorsement for players sitting. As I’ve written before, there’s a reason this has become the most intensely debated subject in sports, as the views of pro- and…

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