President Trump used the occasion of the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles to send a message to the military and about standing during the national anthem.
“Though many of our Nation’s service members are unable to be home with family and friends to enjoy this evening’s American tradition, they are always in our thoughts and prayers. We owe these heroes the greatest respect for defending our liberty and our American way of life. Their sacrifice is stitched into each star and every stripe of our Star-Spangled Banner. We hold them in our hearts and thank them for our freedom as we proudly stand for the national anthem.
“We send our best wishes for an enjoyable Super Bowl Sunday. May God bless and protect our troops, and may He continue to bless the United States of America.”
Trump, of course, became embroiled in the controversy about standing for the national anthem last fall, during a speech in Alabama calling for owners to fire any “son of a b—-” who, like Colin Kaepernick, took a knee or remained seated or otherwise made a demonstration to raise awareness of police brutality and social injustice during the anthem.
Trump used the anthem debate to energize his base and continued to attack the NFL, sounding a theme he first raised during the 2016 campaign as the focus of the protests became redirected toward the military rather than the players’ target — racial injustice. He raged on Twitter, chiding Commissioner Roger Goodell to crack down on the “total disrespect” and mocking the league for “boring games” that led to ratings being “way down.” Over the weekend after his Alabama speech, as Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, Trump did not say a public word about the storm but posted 11 tweets about the NFL anthem controversy.
He also dispatched Vice President Pence to attend — and, following protests by players, to walk out on — a game between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers, who had several players protesting each week and for whom Kaepernick formerly played. During Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Trump took a veiled shot at the NFL, a league at odds with the president and — with players pitted against owners, fans against players, one owner against the league’s commissioner — divided against itself.
One individual close to NFL ownership told The Post’s Kent Babb: “It is a mess, and it is a mess in terms of how to deal with it because we’ve never had this situation happen. We don’t really know what to do. We’re trying to navigate it without involving the president.”
Trump has long been calling out the sport, saying during a January 2016 campaign stop that football was becoming “soft like our country has become soft.”
He did admit that he loves Tom Brady, and although Brady did not accompany the team to Trump’s White House after its Super Bowl LI victory last year, he presumably still feels the same about the quarterback, if not the sport. “It’s boring — although I love Tom Brady. I gotta tell you. I do love Tom,” he said during the 2016 rally. “He’s a great guy. But it’s different. But it’s become soft, and our country has become soft.”