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Trump And Athletes Trade Words On Twitter


President Trump has opened up a new front in the culture wars. At a rally on Friday, he called for NFL players protesting racism to be fired, suggested that new concussion safety rules had ruined the game. And he disinvited NBA star Steph Curry from the White House. This morning, he called for football fans to boycott games with protesting players. And the sports world has reacted. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called the comments divisive. NBA star Lebron James called the president a bum. And this morning in London, football players from the Ravens and the Jaguars kneeled and linked arms in solidarity. Howard Bryant of ESPN joins us now. Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning. How are you?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm good. You saw the game this morning?

BRYANT: The beginning of it, yes. It's still going.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yes, yeah. What was the significance of both sides, including Jacksonville owner Shahid Khan, showing their solidarity?

BRYANT: Well, I think the significance is that you're starting to see mobilization of a business that is offended by what the White House said the other day. And I think that I'm not overly optimistic that it's going to create some sort of new front in this because there's a quarterback named Colin Kaepernick who this league still did not hire and still has not even brought in for a tryout. I think...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Colin Kaepernick, who started this, obviously, by kneeling during the national anthem.

BRYANT: Exactly. That's right. And the league still hasn't even looked at him to play. So it's not as if they've turned any sort of new leaf. But what you are seeing is a league protecting its business. And I think you're seeing a little bit more of the players together trying to send the message that they're offended by what the president did and that they're showing a little bit more solidarity with each other, which I think is significant.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: When you say protecting its business, what do you mean by that?

BRYANT: Well, what I mean by that is that the league makes money off of these black men. These men are - it's a 70 percent black league. This is an issue that's very important to them. And to have the president sort of inflame this question is - it's created some more sympathy for the players. And I think that the - what we know about NFL owners is that they want these issues to go away. The last thing they want is anything that they think is going to affect their business. And now you've got a president calling for a boycott of a $13 billion industry. I think this is something that they know they don't want.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. What are the stakes for the athletes themselves, particularly athletes of color who want to get involved? I mean, we saw all these athletes this morning taking the knee. A lot of them hadn't done that before.

BRYANT: Well, I think that the implications are always - the stakes are very high for the players because the players, especially in the NFL - they don't all have security. You're looking at a kid yesterday with the Oakland A's who - Maxwell - who really is a rookie. He has no security whatsoever. If the league wanted to get rid of him, they could. So the players are taking a lot of risk here. I think what's really interesting about that risk is they're willing to do this, and it's not simply over police brutality anymore. They're making a direct affront to the president. And I think what's very fascinating about it is that they're not willing to budge. And I think that we've seen this over time. We've seen players who have lost everything. Colin Kaepernick doesn't have a job. Antonio Cromartie doesn't have a job. Craig Hodges, when he played with the Chicago Bulls, was black-balled. So it's not like there's no risk here for the players.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN the magazine. Thank you so very much.

BRYANT: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.