Donald Trump picked a fight with black athletes and the leagues that employ them. Before an audience of his white supporters, Trump implored NFL owners, some of them his friends and campaign donors, to fire the predominately black “sons of bitches” protesting during the national anthem. He attacked Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry, prompting responses from LeBron James and others. Less than two weeks ago, Trump fired back at ESPN over Jemele Hill’s comments, with the White House press secretary suggesting she should be fired.

Per CNN’s Jim Acosta, one adviser believes Trump’s comments are part of a deliberate strategy. Trump wants to foment a “new culture war” with black athletes taking the place of Hillary Clinton. A more apt comparison may be wealthy black athletes replacing “globalist” Jewish financiers, Mexican rapists, and “radical Islamic terrorists” in Trumpian imagery and rhetoric.

This is a culture war which Trump’s many critics in the sports media are more than happy to wage with him, one they must wage with him. But, as with all Trump media spats, it will be a war fought on his ground and toward his ends.

We get two media caricatures of Trump. He’s either playing checkers on impulse without understanding the rules or playing some form of multi-dimensional chess and outfoxing the political establishment. Both contain some truth. Trump is terrible at the nuts and bolts of government and has little interest in learning. At the same time, he’s masterful at trolling and manipulating the media. Trump always gets attention. It’s on the topic and framework of his choosing. Even Trump polemicists can’t help but repeat and entrench his messaging and diction.

Trump’s major political innovation was harnessing white racism, stoking fear of various dark others without any scruples. With his foray into sports, he’s again drawing from that white nationalist well to rile up his base. Nothing unites the right (and those recently terming him “Amnesty Don”) quite like the chance to troll “social justice warriors” and “the mainstream media.”

It’s worth asking what Trump is deflecting from. Could it be the advancing Russian collusion investigation? Maybe it’s the utter absence of legislative achievement? Poor response to American citizens in dire straits in Puerto Rico? Having no discernible military or diplomatic plan to address a mushrooming crisis in North Korea? To be fair, how can one expect folks to focus on the concrete threat of horrific nuclear war when Roger Goodell has tribulations?

Of course, this is Donald Trump. His motivations could be as petty as not liking the tenor of the past week’s cable news chyrons or still smarting with the NFL over his hostile merger/lawsuit fiasco that ended the USFL in the mid-1980s. He could also have just glommed onto Fox News talking points and realized it was popular. It could be any, some, or all of the above.

Photo Steven Senne/ AP

Regardless of the motivation, the racial controversy is here and the sports community, leagues and the media, can’t help be drawn into it. His commentary has become so odious that “sticking to sports” is itself a political statement. Even Trump’s apolitical golfing buddy Tom Brady could not avoid the fray.

We are entering October, the sports calendar’s peak. Both football seasons are in full swing. The MLB playoffs happen. The NBA and NHL seasons start. Trump will be everywhere. Any media air left after the fulminating columns will be hoovered up by the latest tweets and comments from athletes. It will be tit for tat with Trump. What was a powerful protest movement and a debate about the equal treatment of all citizens by law enforcement will get bogged down on symbols, abstractions, and trivia about the flag, the veterans, and anthem propriety.

Trump provokes. Hatred can’t go unchallenged. The media and others take the bait and become the movement Trump wants to oppose, becoming hung up on the NFL or Hamilton. Finite attention drifts from weightier, more damaging matters. It’s cheap and blatant filibustering. It’s how he became President.

About Ty Duffy

Ty is a freelance writer/editor based outside Detroit. He's a Michigan Man. He enjoys dogs, whiskey, yoga, and composing pithy career summaries. Contact him at tyduffy@gmail.com.

  • John Danknich

    The media and athletes keep taking the bait. The best way to beat Trump is to ignore him, but no one seems to be able to do so.

  • Real Talk

    LeBron and other millionaires who campaigned for Hillary against Trump planted the seed now they are whining?

  • Shawn Rychling

    Please:

    “Per CNN’s Jim Acosta, one adviser believes Trump’s comments are part of a deliberate strategy. Trump wants to foment a “new culture war” with black athletes taking the place of Hillary Clinton. A more apt comparison may be wealthy black athletes replacing “globalist” Jewish financiers, Mexican rapists, and “radical Islamic terrorists” in Trumpian imagery and rhetoric.”

    Ty Duffy you are so full of crap we can see it oozing out of your eyes and ears!

    • JWJ

      I wonder if Duffy actually believes the blather he wrote. Does he live in such a leftist bubble? Or is he just stupid, and can only blindly regurgitate the accepted religious talking points of leftism? What a sad and angry life he must have?
      I pity him.

      • CreightonRabs

        Duffy is just like the other left-wing wackos who write for this site. Give me the good old days when this site was best known for mocking Pam Ward…

  • alexglives

    You’re right on in this column, but I think Trump is being more specific in this instance. Trump is trying to use white nationalist dog whistles to fire up the GOP voters, in Alabama specifically, who are going to vote in the GOP primary soon. Trump and Bannon back different candidates, and Trump is trying to out-Bannon Bannon to win against him. If Bannon backed Roy Moore wins against Trump Backed Luther Strange, it will look like Trump is not the leader of his base. Bannon will look like the leader of the brain dead MAGA racists who make up the GOP base, which will weaken Trump. So, he is throwing red meat to those voters with these racist dog whistles, trying to get them excited about uniting with him again by giving them a common (fictional) enemy to rally against. They were starting to be disappointed after the DACA stuff he said. This fires them up to do whatever he wants them to do, instead of calling him Amnesty Don and going with Bannon’s guy. It’s a fight over who gets to be Fuhrer of the white reactionaries.

    • PAI

      Good God you are one offensive asshole.

    • JWJ

      Racist, racist, white supremacist, racist, homophobe, racist, white supremacist. That is all the left has.
      To paraphrase another author:
      “identity-obsessed progressivism has now become: everyone is a white supremacist, and everything is white supremacy. Racism is everywhere in every quote, in every headline, and in every policy. White people are inherently evil — unless they flash their LGBT get-out-of-privilege free card. “Hate” is unacceptable, unless you’re hating people you deem to be “haters”, in which case, it’s totally reasonable.
      Once you understand the basis of this flawed, closed-minded ideology, Leftism’s constant anti-intellectual screed makes more sense. Because progressives can’t win in the marketplace of ideas, they resort to shutting down debate and shaming via shrieking pejoratives.”

      So go ahead alex, yell racist dog whistle again. Truly, it is not sad and pathetic.

      • John Danknich

        ^This x1000. This is all the Left has today – name calling and identity based politics. To disagree with them is to be labeled as an enemy.

    • ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

      Oh Stop it. Your whole post is basically today’s regurgitated DNC talking points. The same buzzwords and the same “points” are being bleated word for word by the usual sheeple.

    • missedgehead

      Exactly.

  • souvien

    No health care repeal or replace…no wall…no swamp draining..but hey, he’s got a portion of America pissed at the NFL…

    So this is what “winning” is?

    • inku palios

      Winning to Donald Trump is when half of the U.S. gets nuked, after we go to war with North Korea.

  • Roger Bournival

    So, the real issue here is not the jagoffs kneeling during the National Anthem, it’s Trump’s reaction to it. Got it!

    • Trump wants to be the protagonst, in the sense of criticising his enemies.

      No matter what happens with bill discussions, natural disaster or social activism, he wants to be the media focus.

  • ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

    I could care less what Trump is doing. The point is we tune in to sports as a welcome escape. Keep your protests & politics to your own free time, or we will tune out. Period.

    • Shawn Diiorio

      Have you figured out the whole point? There should not be an escape. Maybe its about time people stop putting their heads in the god damn sand. There’s no escape for the rest of the world. Put your big boy pants on and be an adult.

      • ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

        I’m a vet of Iraq & Afghanistan, and have worked continuously for 38 years as an engineer and businessman. I really am not interested in whatever you think being a big boy is. Figured that sufficiently for myself years ago.

        So you never, EVER, have played a video game? Gone fishing? Read a novel? Watched TV, gone to a movie, played cards or a board game? Ridden a motorboat, jetski, snowmobile, motorbike? Sat around having a few drinks or a few smokes? Gone on a vacation? Sat on a beach? Enjoyed a pool? ThemePark? Gone to a Fair? Circus? Suntanned? Those are diversions…ESCAPES…no less than sports.

        I haven’t watched the NFL at all this season, I catch about 2 games a year. About the same amount of basketball, boxing, and about 7 hockey games. I don’t pay a dime, I don’t buy memorabilia. Over the course of a year it’s not a lot of sports viewing. It just isn’t that important to me. What IS important to me is not being a big windbag telling others that MY diversions are good, theirs are BAD.

        So get off your high horse (“Hypocrite” would be that pony’s name), change out your diaper, and maybe someday you will earn big boys pants.

        • Shawn Diiorio

          I don’t do things to escape, I do things because i enjoy doing them. And won’t stop doing them if they suddenly get political. But that’s what these nfl protesters are doing. So i’m not going to stop watching football just because some players took a knee during the anthem to send a message to our immature President, regardless of whether I think it’s the right thing to do or not, I’m going to continue watching football, because I enjoy watching the sport of football. You can call them escapes if that is what you consider them, but the real world does not go away.
          And As far as high horses, it sounds like you felt the need to tell me about all your accomplishments in the first paragraph. If I’m riding on my high horse, I’ll gladly enjoy the ride. If I stay up here, I can avoid others riding their Asses.

          • ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

            I mentioned no accomplishments, I barely scratched the surface of a life that needed no lessons in what a man is from the likes of someone that wishes to tell others what is an acceptable diversion and what is not. As for the “real world” and the “rest of the world”, I’m sure I’ve encountered much more of it than you ever will, save any lecture on the “real world” sonny.

        • JWJ

          Great points. Politics should not invade every part of our lives.
          How many workers can do a political protest while AT work?

  • Carter_Burger67

    Trump tricked them into exposing themselves for who they are. And they fell for it out of blind hatred for him. His troll game is strong.

  • Christopher Bates

    What a surprise that the sheep here don’t even realize that they are being led by the nose by their orange-haired shepherd.

  • sportsfan365

    The NFL could take the high road, but it decided to jump in the pit and wrestle it out. What a bunch of morons.

    • Shawn Diiorio

      And Trump could have done the same thing tons of times people have taken a dump on him.

  • Shawn Diiorio

    Maybe He’s trying to deflect some of the heat off him because we’re about to bomb North Korea. Going to war with the NFLi s a good way to keep the media busy.

  • noonan18

    Just when I thought I found a website that stayed clear of politics and stuck to sports. Very disappointed that I found this incredible liberal slant of an article on this site. Its to the point now that I can’t beleive a thing the media tells me given all the lies (ones that are still going) about Trump. It is funny though to see that the media is filled with so much hate for Trump, that they always get suckered into this stuff. They did it again this weekend.

    • This website doesn’t discuss sports, but sports media.

      This article describes media coverage of sports events.

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