By Ken Reed

The traditional and social media worlds are on fire today following President Donald Trump’s inflammatory comments about NFL players who choose to peacefully protest during the playing of the national anthem.

Trump, who seems to take perverse pleasure in dividing this country rather than trying to unify it, was likely taken aback yesterday by the far-reaching outcry against his call for the firing of sons of bitches (his words) that silently take part in anthem protests designed to bring attention to social injustices in the United States.

NFL players harshly criticized Trump, as did the league commissioner, Roger Goodell, and numerous owners, including several who had made substantial contributions to his campaign and inauguration fund.

“Trump is feeding red meat to his base while trying to further divide America,” writes Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel.

“Yet Sunday he ran into unexpected and unprecedented solidarity in the NFL. Players and owners and coaches generally feud over everything – from rules to investigations, from revenue to safety. They all agreed on Sunday.”

Yes, they all agreed that Trump was way off base with his latest rant. Trump’s divisive rhetoric resulted in a unified response — across all demographic categories and political ideologies. That’s the beautiful — and hopefully lasting — memory from Sunday.

But Trump wasn’t done. He also touched on another sports topic during his off-the-wall Friday night speech: brain trauma and player safety in football. He was totally off base with those comments as well.

“Today, if you hit too hard, 15 yards, throw him out of the game,” Trump said while throwing a pretend penalty flag during his Alabama speech. “They’re ruining the game, right? They’re ruining the game. It’s hurting the game. Look, that’s what they want to do. They want to hit. They want to hit.”

Trump’s comments came only days after it was revealed that former New England Patriots tight end, Aaron Fernandez, had the worst case of the brain disease CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) ever diagnosed for someone so young (27). His comments also follow the recent study that found that 110 of 111 former NFL players’ brains examined had CTE.

Trump’s statements deriding the new safety rules in football are especially irresponsible given the NFL’s visibility and influence on lower levels of football, most notably, at the youth and high school levels. Brain trauma is especially dangerous for players age 18 and under due to the fact their brains are still-developing, and thus, more vulnerable to blows to the head.

Nevertheless, the president made it clear that he prefers the old rules that didn’t penalize players for “targeting” the head while blocking and tackling.

It’s not the first time he’s talked about this subject either.

During a 2016 rally in Lakeland, Fla., Trump rambled into a discussion about a woman who had fainted early in his speech but returned to the crowd.

“The woman was out cold and now she’s coming back,” Trump said.

“See? We don’t go by these new, and very much softer, NFL rules. Concussion. Oh, oh! Got a little ding on the head. No, no, you can’t play for the rest of the season. Our people are tough.”

“With 2 million kids playing football, and millions more playing other contact sports like soccer, head injuries are a long-term public-health problem,” says Eric Nauman, a professor of biomedical engineering at Purdue University. Nauman’s research has found that even if high school football players aren’t diagnosed with a concussion, their brains can show signs of damage.

It becomes more and more clear every day that Trump doesn’t care about the free speech rights or physical well-being of fellow American citizens. He’s more interested in saying something that will get applause from his rabid base.

This shallow demagogue’s mantra appears to be, “If I can say something that results in applause and me having my ego stroked, it’s all good.”

The Mayo Clinic defines narcissistic personality disorder as:

“a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultraconfidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

Well, at least we know what we’re dealing with.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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