Trump’s meddling in the NFL is childish and scary at the same time.
As the national anthem played before Sunday’s game, more than 20 players from the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars were united in protest on the far side of the field, some kneeling, some with arms locked.
Presumably, they did so to protest the comments President Donald Trump made this weekend at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, and on Twitter.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field?’” Trump said at a reelection rally for Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), going off topic to complain about the growing trend in the league of taking a knee during the national anthem.
He then insinuated if an owner were to impose punishments on their players for their silent protests, they would be “the most popular person in the country.”
Despite the outcry from the president, many teams’ owners and coaches are standing with their players, acknowledging their right to protest.
“We recognize our players’ influence. We respect their demonstration and support them 100 percent. All voices need to be heard. That’s democracy in its highest form,” said Baltimore Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti in a statement released Sunday.
This continues to be a trend of Trump’s: complain about popular culture revolting against him or someone in his administration, experience an unfavorable reaction, and then appeal to others within their community to silence them.
By using this dangerous form of peer manipulation, Trump hopes to foster a better attitude toward himself and his policies in the general public.
Even the motive he provides broadcasters are what he truly desires: attention.
As a man obsessed with TV ratings and viewership, it should only make sense that he try to use these as forms of repercussions.
Once he found out his call to suspend or otherwise punish the players backfired, Trump began calling for a boycott of the NFL on Twitter, popularizing the hashtag “#standforouranthem,” and retweeting images stating “You can boycott our anthem, WE CAN BOYCOTT YOU.”
“Should Trump’s supporters respond to that call [to boycott], the medium-term effects could be serious for the NFL,” said Fortune magazine writer David Morris. “But the impact would be at least as bad, and much more immediate, for the broadcasters who pay to air games.”
A drop in viewership could hurt the NFL after their contracts with broadcasters are up, but since those contracts can amount to more than $2 billion, they are insulated from any instantaneous consequences.
The broadcasters airing NFL’s games did experience varying levels of loss, with FOX sports’ preliminary ratings declining 16 percent from last year’s Week 3 matchup.
The loss of ratings may be indicative of Trump’s boycott actually working.
However, it should be noted that the stations were already experiencing problems with stagnating viewership and dropping ratings.
If this were to affect the decision of any of these stations to continue broadcasting, that would be a direct, concrete effect on the realm of privately-owned entertainment.
Setting this precedent is also dangerous to someone like Trump, who ran on the platform of reduced governmental intervention in business.
The real question that arises is that if Trump is able to harm businesses without the repercussions that would have affected any other president, where exactly will he stop?
Ben Hummel is the Opinion Editor at The Collegian and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.