9/27/2017 10:59:00 AM EDITORIAL: Trump fails to tackle real issues raised by players
When he tweets or speaks in public, President Donald Trump often gets sidetracked by an event of the moment and misses the issue of larger importance.
In doing so, he regularly and needlessly offends large cross sections of Americans. Sometimes he even advocates the denial of their constitutional rights.
So it is with his recent attack on National Football League players who have chosen to kneel during the national anthem before games as a protest against social injustice and the mistreatment of black citizens by police.
On Friday night at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, President Trump shouted, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you'd say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired.'"
He followed that vulgar statement with tweets reasserting the sentiment.
While a few NFL players began kneeling during "The Star-Spangled Banner" in peaceful protest last fall, the president's outburst brought a sudden resurgence of attention to their cause and induced more players to kneel during the anthem at Sunday's games.
The president has failed to focus on the most important issue here: African-Americans' concern that they are being targeted by police and, five decades after the civil rights movement, are still not being treated as equals in their country.
Rather than lambasting the players, the president should recognize the problem and lead a national discourse about it. Such an approach could bring meaningful social change and help unify the country. Instead, the president chose to attack the players' way of protesting.
Many Americans, including many in Madison County, share the president's viewpoint that kneeling during the national anthem is disrespectful to the country and particularly to members of the military and their families. The president -- like NFL players, NFL fans and all Americans -- has a right to his opinion and a right, as a citizen, to make it known.
But, as our president, he has a greater responsibility to provide leadership. Calling for punitive measures against people who are peacefully exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression is counterproductive, divisive, simple-minded and un-presidential. It's the antithesis of good leadership.
President Trump's hopelessly shortsighted comments on the matter call to mind a quote from President John F. Kennedy: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
It's understandable that President Trump -- and other Americans -- would be offended by players refusing to stand for the national anthem. But it's unconscionable that our president would advocate against their constitutional rights and would fail to provide leadership to address the serious national issues that drive the players to their knees.