LeBron James joins NFL in hitting back at Trump: ‘The people run this country’
League rejects criticism from Trump as LeBron James says country is not run by an individual, and damn sure not him
A day after players across the NFL defied Donald Trump with gestures of protest during the national anthem, and as the president continued to tweet his anger, a league spokesman hit back by invoking the 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about sexual assault.
Everyone should know, including the president, that this is what real locker-room talk is, said the NFLs Joe Lockhart, referring to Trumps defense of a leaked tape in which he bragged about groping and kissing women without their consent.
The NBA great LeBron James also slammed Trump, telling reporters: The people run this country, not one individual. And damn sure not him.
On Sunday, about 200 players sat or kneeled in a show of defiance against Trump, while others locked arms or raised fists. A few teams stayed off the field as The Star-Spangled Banner played.
In a call with reporters, Lockhart, a former spokesman for Bill Clinton, said players were attempting to advance equality. This is about going from protest to progress, he said, noting that since the then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem, many players have become involved in community work and promoting criminal justice reform.
In one NFL locker room on Sunday, the Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas discussed Trump: It just amazes me that with everything else thats going on in this world, thats what you concerned about? Youre the leader of the free world and this is what youre talking about?
As a man, as a father, as an African American man, someone in the NFL, one of those sons of bitches, you know, yeah, I take it personally. But at the same time its bigger than me, man.
Thomass use of sons of bitches referred to Trumps remarks at a rally in Alabama on Friday: Wouldnt you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, Get that son of a bitch off the field right now.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, repeatedly insisted the presidents message was a matter of patriotism.
I think that its always appropriate for the president of the United States to defend our flag, to defend the national anthem, and to defend the men and women who fought and died to defend it, Sanders said at the daily White House press briefing.
Trump ignited anger among owners who donated to his campaign, close friend Robert Kraft among them. Tom Brady, quarterback for Krafts Super Bowl-champion New England Patriots who has himself come under fire over his friendship with Trump, said the comments were just divisive.
Speaking on WEEIs Kirk and Callahan radio show, Brady who did not kneel but locked arms with team-mates before facing the Houston Texans said: I think everyone has a right to do whatever they want to do. If you dont agree with it, thats fine, you can voice your disagreement. I think thats great. Its part of our democracy, as long as its done in a peaceful, respectful way. Thats what this country has been all about.
Trump was undeterred, tweeting: The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our country, flag and national anthem. NFL must respect this!
The presidents comments were nonetheless seen as directed at black players. Kaepernick, who is African American, began his protest to draw attention to fatal police shootings of unarmed black men. He remains unemployed, in what critics say is a league-wide block based on his political views. At a press conference on Monday, James said: I wish I owned an NFL team right now. Id sign him today.
James, who endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016, thrust himself into the debate on Saturday when Trump went after basketball star Stephen Curry, rescinding a White House invitation to the NBA-champion Golden State Warriors. That prompted criticism and rebuke from black athletes including James, who called the president a bum.
James went further on Monday. He doesnt understand how many kids, no matter the race, look up to the president of the United States for guidance, for leadership, for words of encouragement, he said.
Thats what makes me more sick than anything. Its the most powerful position in the world, and we are at a time where the most powerful position in the world has an opportunity to bring us closer together as a people, and inspire the youth, and put the youth at ease, saying that its OK for me to walk down the street and not be judged because of the color of my skin or because of my race.
And he has no recollection of that. He doesnt even care.
Speaking from the White House podium, Sanders denied that Trumps comments singled out black athletes: The president is not talking about race; the president is talking about pride in our country.
She struggled, however, when asked why Trump was willing to see nuance behind the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville last month, resulting in violent clashes that left one counter-protester dead, but not in black athletes taking a knee to draw attention to criminal justice.
I think if the debate is really for them about police brutality, they should probably protest the officers on the field who are protecting them instead of the American flag, Sanders said.
Sanders also refused to engage with why Trump felt the ranks of white supremacists protesting in Charlottesville included very fine people while the athletes protesting during the national anthem were sons of bitches.
I think you are trying to conflate different things here, Sanders told ABC NewssCecilia Vega.
Look, we certainly respect the rights that people have, but we also need to focus, she added. This isnt about the president being against something this is about the president being for something.
Lockhart of the NFL stopped short of saying whether Trump was racially motivated. The president knows whats in his heart, he said. The president has chosen his form of dialogue, which is Twitter and statements that Im not sure a sensible review of the facts would support. If the president wants to engage he knows our number.
Trump did draw the support of several team owners in Nascar, who agreed with the suggestion that protesters should be fired. Itll get you a ride on a Greyhound bus, said one, Richard Childress. Anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people gave their lives for it. This is America.
Trump tweeted: So proud of Nascar and its supporters and fans. They wont put up with disrespecting our country or our flag they said it loud and clear!
The next arena for protests will be the Monday night NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals, in Phoenix. The high-profile NBA pre-season starts on Saturday.