It seems to me that each time President Donald Trump backs himself into a corner politically, he finds a way to change the subject.
The whole country can be disappointed in the Republicans failure to deliver on healthcare, the Trump campaign’s lies about their ties to Russia, or Trump’s failure to release his tax returns. I believe they would be disappointed, yet there is one problem: the whole country does not value these issues enough to pay attention to them.
In the America that puts entertainment before substance, citizens watch Trump like he’s the star of a soap opera, and he does his best to avoid the substantive issues to give the people, including himself, what they want: a distraction.
This week, while the Graham-Cassidy Bill, a Republican replacement of the Affordable Care Act, our President shifted the focus of the public away from policy and toward sports. When former MVP point guard Stephen Curry mentioned in an interview that he would not support his championship-winning Golden State Warriors visiting the White House with Trump in office, Trump took the bait. He uninvited the whole team.
He was not done yet. With Robert Mueller sinking deeper and deeper into his probe of the Trump Campaign’s possible collusion with Russia, Trump turned to football. He called for NFL owners to fire the players that take a knee during the National Anthem. This trend began in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers decided to do so in order to protest racial injustice in America. This action sparked both outrage and solidarity.
Other players who were unhappy about racial inequality in America followed Kaepernick’s lead, and some Americans took offense to this citing that kneeling was a sign of disrespect to veterans who fight for America. Others supported these players, and they said they were fighting for a better American society, just like the veterans.
I do not believe that Trump cares about the veterans; he dodged the Vietnam Draft himself and said that John McCain was not a war hero because he got captured. Trump needed a distraction, and racial issues have served very well for him in this capacity. Not too long ago, he downplayed white supremacists’ role in inciting violence at a protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, dividing the country yet again.
His base loves these games, and they get fired up every time the “liberal snowflakes” get offended. Meanwhile, the “liberal snowflakes” are too busy being offended that they forget about the fact the Republicans control most state legislatures, school boards, and both Houses of Congress. Trump has proven that he can mobilize his voters without empty promises and loud insults; the Democrats keep pointing at him, which gives him the spotlight, exactly what he wants.
Many NFL owners denounced the President after he came after them and tried to tell them what to do, but many owners of NFL teams contributed millions to his campaign. They did not denounce him when he insulted Mexicans, banned Muslims from entry in to the United States and transgendered soldiers from serving in our military, and bragged about groping women. No: instead, they spoke out against him when he attempted to tell them how to run their business. They spoke out when it threatened their bottom line, not because of some sense of nobility or dignity regarding the American conversation around racial justice.
I am not making the argument that conversations about race in America are a distraction; in fact, they need to happen more often. However, from a political standpoint, I do not think Trump will lose many voters or Democrats will gain any as a result of this NFL controversy, but I think more viewers just tuned in the reality television show that takes place everyday in our government – and that means almost nothing. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted every time Trump avoids substantial issues by throwing shiny divisiveness in onto our screens. He has enough entertainment value to last him eight years, but he has no idea how to run any semblance of a unified country.