Trump ‘Kneel’ Attack Gives His Base Reason to Stand

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is getting exactly what he wanted from a racially charged confrontation with professional athletes and sports team owners: a morale boost for his base and a fight with those who see the refusal to stand for the National Anthem as an appropriate form of dissent.

Trump’s fiery declaration on Friday night that National Football League owners should “fire or suspend” players who kneel during the anthem was met Saturday with fierce criticism and on Sunday with mass demonstrations of resistance on the field.

Some players knelt, while others locked arms in solidarity. Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan were among those who joined players in protests that are now nearly as much about Trump as the original desire, pushed into the spotlight more than a year ago by Colin Kaepernick, to highlight racial injustices in the criminal justice system.

“He wanted a reaction. He got that reaction,” former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told NBC News. “It’s very disappointing — the same level of stuff we get from the president that doesn’t advance a genuine conversation but polarizes people into camps. … This is asinine.”

But at a time when some of Trump’s staunchest allies are lining up against him in an Alabama Senate GOP runoff on Tuesday, his effort to dismantle Obamacare is hanging by a thread, and the president has been more likely to team up with Democratic leaders than Republicans on legislation, GOP strategists say Trump found an issue that reminds his supporters where he stands on cultural issues.

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