Photo: Chip Somodevilla (Getty Images)

Donald J. Trump, president of white America; the man who referred to the black mothers of NFL players kneeling for injustice and inequality as “bitches”; the man who painted Colin Kaepernick as anti-American and insinuated that anyone who didn’t stand for the NFL’s paid display of patriotism was an unpatriotic degenerate who didn’t respect the flag or the troops ...

On Friday, that Donald J. Trump stood in front of a gathering of the “fake” media and admitted that he was wrong.

Of course, he didn’t say it in those words, but he said it.

Before boarding Air Force One to attend the G-7 summit of leading industrial nations, Trump took questions from the media. While rambling about his heroic commutation of Alice Marie Johnson’s obscene prison sentence, he began talking about the “awesome” power entrusted to the president with regards to such commutations or pardons. After suggesting that he may be considering a pardon of boxing legend Muhammad Ali (who doesn’t actually need a pardon), Trump said:

You have a lot of people in the NFL in particular, but in sports leagues, they’re not proud enough to stand for our national anthem. I don’t like that. What I’m going to do is, I’m going to say to them, “Instead of talk”—it’s all talk, talk, talk—“we have a great country. You should stand for our national anthem. You shouldn’t go in a locker room when our national anthem is played.”

I am gonna ask all of those people to recommend to me, because that’s what they’re protesting, people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system, and I understand that. And I’m gonna ask them to recommend to me, people that were unfairly treated, friends of theirs or people that they know about, and I’m gonna take a look at those applications. And if I find—and my committee finds—that they were unfairly treated, then we will pardon them or at least let them out.

Let there be no debate. Trump is admitting that he and, by proxy, most of white America were wrong about the protests all along.

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Even if all of this is a lie, which it could very well be, this off-the-cuff statement proves not only that Trump understood the point of the demonstrations during the national anthem started by Colin Kaepernick but also that the players who participated were ultimately successful.


The conservative rhetoric previously funneled through Trump’s anuslike blowhole always insisted that NFL players were disrespecting America by kneeling during the pregame display paid for by the marketing arm of the U.S. military. That regurgitated flawed logic is contradictory to the fundamental nature of protests.

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Protests are supposed to be visible and disturbing. Colin Kaepernick and the other players didn’t hate the troops or the flag any more than Rosa Parks disliked bus drivers, or the men involved in the Boston Tea Party despised hot drinks. To suggest anything otherwise was either stupid or intentionally disingenuous.

If the detractors were being intentionally misleading during the public debate on this issue, there had to have been a reason, the most obvious of which is racism. If they were willing to ignore the facts on how black people are disproportionately killed, brutalized, arrested, sentenced and incarcerated by actors in America’s criminal-justice system, ultimately, that was an act of racism.

However, there were people, including myself, who believed that Trump and the 59 percent of white Americans surveyed by CNN who support the NFL rule fining players who don’t stand for the national anthem didn’t understand the issue. Activists, athletes, writers, members of the military and even Kaepernick himself explained that the protests had nothing to do with the flag, the anthem or the troops.

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But the detractors knew all along.

Which means they weren’t clueless about the anthem. They were just being racist.

Even if Trump doesn’t commute a sentence, grant clemency or pardon a single person suggested by the NFL players, the simple consideration is proof that their strategy worked. None of the football players involved in the demonstrations believed that if they knelt long enough, police guns aimed at the heads of black people would stop firing. No one thought that kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” would magically make the doors of federal prisons fly open and free the unjustly incarcerated.

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Their goal was to bring attention to the issue of injustice and inequality, and the ultimate form of attention is to have the leader of the free world tell the American press that he recognizes the intent of their mission. Even if he disagrees with their tactics and rejects their methods, ultimately, the players won.

The only logical arguments in favor of the people who objected to the protests were:

  • The protest muddied the issue and people didn’t understand its true intent.
  • Even if people understood the true intent of the protest, it wouldn’t help the cause of injustice and inequality.
  • Kneeling during the national anthem is so offensive that the people with the power to effect change would be reluctant to do so.
  • Protesting was the wrong kind of attention.

But Donald Trump just admitted that everyone in the crowd booing the protests was wrong. By agreeing to consider the ultimate goal of the protests, Trump concedes that the NFL owners who want to fine the players were wrong. In fact, if one were to tally up the scorecard, here is what the players gained by protesting:

  1. NFL owners agreed to donate $100 million to social justice causes.
  2. For two seasons, every show about America’s most watched sports talked about inequality and injustice.
  3. The president of the United States announced that he will consider taking actions, no matter how small, toward addressing the issue.
  4. I realized that I didn’t care about the NFL that much, anyway.
  5. We learned that we don’t need to show videos of police killings or study statistics about the criminal-justice system to affect white people. The only thing required to make them melt into a pile of mayonnaise and white tears is to kneel during a 200-year-old song.
  6. Finally, Trump revealed that his compatriots knew all along that this protest by black people didn’t have anything to do with the national anthem, the flag or the brave heroes who fight for our “freedoms.”

    For whatever reason, Trump and his compatriots simply chose to ignore systematic inequality.

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That reason is racism.

I’m glad he cleared that up.