President Trump made an appearance on D.C. talk radio Wednesday, and he engaged in a brief discussion of his “Opportunity Zones” initiative and what former president Barack Obama may have known about the Department of Justice’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible contacts with Russians — or “Spygate,” as host Larry O’Connor of WMAL called it. That wasn’t a reference to the New England Patriots, but the conversation did quickly turn to the NFL, specifically the Washington Redskins.
O’Connor, whose station broadcasts Redskins games, began by asking Trump if he would go to see them in person, telling the president, “It’s pretty fun out at FedEx [Field].”
“Well, I will, and actually the owner is a — he’s really a good guy,” Trump said of Daniel Snyder. “He’s been a supporter, and he’s done a very good job.”
Snyder was among several NFL team owners who donated to Trump’s inaugural celebration, making a $1 million contribution. And in hopes of bringing the Redskins back from Maryland to D.C. and into a new stadium to be built atop the federally owned site that features RFK Stadium, Snyder and team president Bruce Allen attempted in December to get favorable language inserted into a massive spending bill hastily assembled by the then-Republican-controlled Congress, but Democratic lawmakers objected and the effort stalled.
Trump made no mention of that, but he did have plenty of nice things to say about Redskins quarterback Alex Smith, or at least an unnamed player who could only have been Smith.
“You have a good team. You’ve got to make sure that quarterback is going to be healthy,” Trump told O’Connor. “It’s really, it’s a game of quarterbacks. You see these teams that, all of sudden when they hit gold, they get the right quarterback, and it’d be nice to pick a Tom Brady in the sixth round, but it doesn’t happen that way, never happened that way before.
“But the Redskins have a very good team. They need the solidity of the quarterback,” the president continued. “I mean, unfortunately, I think they had a really good quarterback, who got hurt.”
O’Connor interjected by saying, “It was devastating, yeah,” referring to the broken fibula and tibia Smith suffered in a November game against the Houston Texans. The gruesome-looking injury immediately ended Smith’s season, his first with the Redskins after being traded in the offseason from the Kansas City Chiefs, and after enduring complications including a subsequent infection, he is considered unlikely to play in 2019.
“Devastating,” Trump agreed Wednesday, before asking if the unnamed player presumed to be Smith was “coming back,” only to be told, “Not this season.”
“It was that bad of an injury?” Trump said. “You know, it’s funny because he went through many seasons of football — I think he’s a really underrated quarterback."
Trump then more or less confirmed the conversation was about Smith by saying, “It’s like, they always sort of had somebody standing behind him, and he’d take San Francisco, he’d take, wherever he were, he’d do really well, and then they always sort of had a backup that took over.”
The president, who made headlines in recent seasons by repeatedly castigating the NFL’s player protests during the national anthem and the league’s failure to stop them, did not delve any further into a discussion of those backups to Smith. He thus avoided any mention of Colin Kaepernick, the originator of the protests who, in 2012, took over for an injured Smith and led the 49ers to the Super Bowl.
Nor did Trump or O’Connor note that, while Smith did “really well” in his final season with the Chiefs, throwing for a career-high 26 touchdowns before being traded to Washington, Kansas City immediately replaced him with Patrick Mahomes, who threw a whopping 50 touchdowns last year and earned NFL MVP honors. To help make up for Smith’s expected absence this season, the Redskins acquired veteran quarterback Case Keenum last month in a trade with the Denver Broncos, and the team could still address the position in this month’s NFL draft.
Staying focused on Smith, though, Trump called him “a very underrated guy,” adding, “It’s really too bad that he’s not coming back, because I think that he’s a very good quarterback.”
Trump hasn’t opined much on Washington sports since he took office, apart from congratulating the Capitals on winning the Stanley Cup last year and hosting them this year at the White House, but he had a fair amount to say in the years before he became president. Going back to 2012, Trump took issue with the Nationals for shutting down pitcher Stephen Strasburg ahead of a playoff run, tweeting that “they deserved to lose” in the postseason.
Later that year, Trump called the Redskins’ starting quarterback at the time, Robert Griffin III, “a very special player.” He added of the rookie sensation: “He is exciting to watch and smart on the field. Amazing talent.”
In 2013, Trump weighed in after Obama said of the Redskins, “If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team — even if it had a storied history — that was offending a sizeable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”
Saying that Obama needed to “focus on his job” and not on “harassing” the “privately owned” team, Trump tweeted: “President should not be telling the Washington Redskins to change their name — our country has far bigger problems! FOCUS on them, not nonsense.”
After beginning his presidential campaign in 2015, Trump returned to the topic, saying, “Honestly, I don’t think they should change the name, unless the owner wanted to.” He added at the time: “I know Indians that are extremely proud of that name. They think it’s a positive.”
On Wednesday, O’Connor ended the segment by repeating his desire to see Trump attend a Redskins game. Trump has yet to do so and, unlike past presidents going back to William Howard Taft, he also hasn’t thrown a ceremonial first pitch, whether at Nationals Park or any other MLB stadium.
Of the encouragement to make the trek to FedEx Field, Trump said: “Thank you very much. I look forward to it, and we’ll go together.”
That had O’Connor very excited about the prospect of cheering for the burgundy and gold alongside the president.
“He will not go back on his word, will he?” O’Connor asked his listeners. “Trump and I are going to a Redskins game together. . . . Please send that out to the media, so it’s, like, entrenched.”
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