With protests planned and a halftime performer who has been highly critical, the national college football championship game Monday night will draw President Trump to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Maybe he’ll tweet about it because, as of Monday morning, he isn’t expected to take part in an interview with ESPN during the game.
“We’re still talking to the White House. I don’t get the sense he’s going to do an interview,” Stephanie Druley, ESPN senior vice president for events and studio programs, told the Associated Press Sunday. “We will, obviously, show him at the game when we see where he is sitting.”
The network has been a target of Trump’s criticism, lashing out at the “SportsCenter” host Jemele Hill, who was suspended for tweeting that he is a “white supremacist,” and the network, tweeting, “With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have “tanked,” in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!”
ESPN said it wasn’t trying to make nice with the president by offering an interview.
“I don’t think that’s necessary,” Druley said. “It’s the president. The president shows up at a sporting event, ideally, you document it and you’d like to talk to him. I don’t think this president makes it any different, quite honestly. I don’t think we have a need to mend fences.”
In March, Trump passed up the chance to fill out a bracket for the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, something Barack Obama had done. “We look forward to working with ESPN on another opportunity in the near future,” Hope Hicks, now the White House communications director, said in an email to The Post in mid-February.
The championship football game between two SEC teams is essentially a home game for Georgia and Atlanta residents have not forgotten that Trump described the city as “crime infested” and “falling apart” last year after Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) refused to attend his inauguration.
The city is expecting 100,000 people for events connected with the title game and the presence of the president will create traffic and logistics headaches. Still, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has promised a “safe, smooth and secure” championship.
The Atlanta chapter of the NAACP said in a statement on Facebook that it is encouraging fans “to bring a white towel to wave simulating a blizzard while the president is in the packed stadium. Trump supporters mockingly call the opposition snowflakes, but when we come together we create a mighty storm.”
Calling Trump’s decision to attend the game “terrible,” the organization added that “we respect those who choose to [protest], and we fully expect some groups who will be protesting outside the game.”
The president is likely to draw the attention of Kendrick Lamar, the halftime performer whose songs have often been critical, with lyrics such as “Donald Trump is a chump, know how we feel, punk / Tell ’em that God comin’ / And Russia need a replay button, y’all up to something” in “The Heart Part 4.” He’ll perform just outside the stadium.
Refuse Fascism and Refuse Fascism ATL plan to “take a knee against Trump” outside CNN’s world headquarters just before kickoff, showing support for athletes who have drawn Trump’s scorn for kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustice and police brutality.
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