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  • What's behind President Trump's fight with the NFL? It's caused the spotlight to shift away from the White House, which the President wants.
By Robert Klemko
June 05, 2018

I could write a thousand words about that statement that rocked the NFL on a Monday night in June, and it wouldn't be getting blood out of a stone either. I'd break it down line by line, until all of its falsehoods were laid bare.

If I were writing that column, I'd probably focus on the tremendous deceit of the President's central premise that protesting NFL players dishonor the men and women of the military by protesting during the national anthem. If it were worth going over once more, we could get into the reasons for the protest (racial inequality in the U.S.) and how the original kneeling NFL player —Colin Kaepernick—did so rather than sit on the bench as he had done initially, out of respect, and a firm belief that this country and these ideals we ratified in our founding documents are something worth fighting for.

I could talk about the totalitarian tough guy nature of that line—"They disagree with their president"—an assertion cast as though it were capital sin, rather than what it is: the daily yield of a healthy democracy. I might have written about all that, but that wouldn't be giving the president and his staff enough credit.

Yes, the President knows this sort of thing is red meat for his base. Sticking it to uppity black millionaires has been good for business since the first cretin came up with the lie that the first black president wasn't born in this country, and well before that even. But that's not what Monday's statement was about. This was play-action. This was John Elway faking the handoff to a migraine-addled Terrell Davis in the Super Bowl. This was Dan Marino faking the spike and tossing it into the waiting hands of Mark Ingram Sr.

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Monday, if you hadn't heard, was a Bad Day for the President. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders dodged questions about her statement last August that the President "certainly didn't dictate" a misleading statement Donald Trump Jr. released regarding a reported meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign, a statement disputed by a letter sent in January by the President's lawyers to the special counsel investigating him. But that was just the appetizer.

Next there came two bombshells, a veritable surf-and-turf on a fun-filled Monday. There was the late-breaking news that a review of documents seized in an FBI raid of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's home and office found that just a small fraction of them—less than 200 of nearly 300,000 documents and files—are privileged or partially privileged according to a court-appointed watchdog, contrary to arguments made by lawyers for Trump who are not under federal investigation. On top of that, special counsel prosecutors accused former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of tampering with witnesses in the tax and money laundering case against him. He could face jail time.

The fight with the NFL is fun. It gets the people going. And it concerns NFL owners so much they made a rule against demonstrations during the anthem that's likely done more to divide protesting players and conservative-leaning owners than Trump ever could. Of course, Trump found a way to criticize the NFL for that measure, tweeting that staying in the locker room during the anthem—an option the league offered to players without punishment—was just as unpatriotic as kneeling.

He's keeping the fight going, because down in Washington, the house of cards is tipping over. Don't look away.

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