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Trump leads pledge to ditch pro-soccer, NFL after leagues vow to allow kneeling during anthem

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President Donald Trump said Saturday he’s done watching semi-pro soccer and National Football League games if both leagues allow players to protest during the playing of the National Anthem.

And he may not be the only elected Republican lawmaker to do so.

A day earlier, according to ABC affiliate WEAR-TV, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) called out the U.S. Soccer Federation for its decision to allow players not to stand during the National Anthem, which is a source of pride and a sign of respect for the country as well as an appreciation for getting the opportunity to represent the country.

“I’d rather the US not have a soccer team than have a soccer team that won’t stand for the National Anthem. You shouldn’t get to play under our flag as our national team if you won’t stand when it is raised,” Gaetz tweeted Friday.

U.S. Soccer initiated a ban on kneeling in 2017 in response to protests by Megan Rapinoe, who began taking a knee during the playing of the anthem in support of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who initiated the protest while a member of the San Francisco 49ers to demonstrate against police brutality against black people.

The kneeling generated a massive backlash from fans and from President Trump. Kaepernick hasn’t been in the league since 2017, though Left-wing groups have continually pressured the NFL to require teams to give him another opportunity. Those calls have increased since the death of George Floyd last month.

Following Floyd’s death, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell claimed the league was “wrong” in the way it handled the protests. He announced last week that he is overturning a policy that called for punishing players who knelt during the anthem; U.S. Soccer followed up by lifting its own ban Wednesday.

“Why not just go full woke and remove the ‘U.S.’ altogether?” Gaetz has since tweeted, adding, “Defund US Soccer!”

Gaetz’s opposition to the U.S. Soccer decision drew the attention of President Trump, who retweeted the WEAR-TV story and adding, “I won’t be watching much anymore!”

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1271913575242780678

Trump followed that up with a pledge to ditch the NFL this year, too, because the league will allow players to protest during the playing of the anthem, which will no doubt become a sports news story in and of itself once the season begins in late summer with preseason games.

“And it looks like the NFL is heading in that direction also, but not with me watching!” The president wrote in retweeting Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who criticized the U.S. Soccer decision.

President Trump heavily criticized the NFL for failing to step in early and quell the protests.

“The NFL National Anthem Debate is alive and well again – can’t believe it! Isn’t it in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart? The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!” Trump tweeted in July 2018.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1020432499082702849

This year, however, they are likely to spread beyond professional and semi-professional sports. There are already rumblings that, as the college football season approaches, protests before games are likely. And as has been the case throughout other leagues, it appears as though the only voices and opinions allowed are those in support of the demonstrations.

As for the NFL, allowing the protests to occur a few years ago cost the league dearly in terms of support, revenue, and fans. It’s not clear yet what the impact to the league’s bottom line will be this year if the protests become widespread and more of a controversy than some of the games themselves.

 

Jon Dougherty

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