Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Donald Trump, reconnecting with the conservative groundswell that landed him the US presidency with a minority of the popular vote, was down in Alabama addressing a political rally.

As the region continued to recover after deadly freak storms and as nuclear war with North Korea became a greater likelihood, it made perfect sense for Trump to turn his attention to an even more important matter — the behaviour of players in the National Football League (NFL).

Ever since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took to one knee during the singing of the national anthem more than a year ago to protest against the police’s treatment of black Americans, there have been growing displays of protest by NFL players.

Many team members now routinely "take the knee" during the singing of the national anthem, in protest.

In Trump’s view, a protesting player is a "son of a bitch" who should become victim to his own television tag-line, "You’re fired!", Reuters reported.

And so battle has commenced between Trump and the US’s other major compulsive attention-seeker, American football.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell rebuked Trump, as did New England Patriots chairman Robert Kraft.

Trump, now at the centre of a national media storm, was not going to get off the pony while the betting was hot. He turned to Twitter with a call on the public to boycott the NFL: "If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!"

Then it was game time and, across the country, NFL stars protested alongside coaches and even owners.

The entire Pittsburgh Steelers team, bar one player, stayed off the field for the anthem. When they ran out, they were roundly booed by the home crowd.

Facing slumping ratings over the on-field lack of excitement, the NFL now faces a further challenge — an all-out assault from the White House that pits its conservative fan base against its protesting players. Get out the popcorn.

hartleyr@tisoblackstar.co.za

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