Tapper: Trump Says This Is Not About Race, But He Called Upon White Owners To Punish Black Players

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CNN's Jake Tapper launched into President Trump for comments he made at a rally in Alabama about NFL players kneeling for the national anthem.

"Though the original protests are about race, and the protesters were almost entirely black, and the team owners whom the president was calling upon to fire or suspend those players are almost entirely white, and the president chose to launch this campaign in front of an almost all-white crowd in front of Alabama, despite all that, the president insisted that this has nothing to do with race," Tapper said Monday on his CNN show.

"It is 100 percent true that the president never said anything about race," Tapper said. "He did not have to. This entire discussion is about black men protesting racial injustice."





"One, of course, wonders why, in the president's view, a black man protesting racial injustices by kneeling during the anthem is a son of a bitch, while whites marching along Nazis and the Klan to protest the removal of the statue of a Confederate general is a -- quote -- 'very fine person,'" Tapper added.

From Monday's broadcast of The Lead:

TAPPER: We begin today with the politics lead. President Trump this weekend exacerbating an already contentious debate in the culture wars by picking a side and doing so willingly, enthusiastically, and really rather crudely.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now? Out. He's fired.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: He's fired! He's fired!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The response from NFL players and owners was overwhelmingly a dramatic rejection of that, with the league commissioner and team owners issuing statements assailing President Trump's comments and his tone.

And these displays of unity and brotherhood among hundreds of players, locking arms, supporting their fellow players, taking knees, including support for, especially support for those who have been protesting during the anthem.

And keep in mind as you look at these pictures from Sunday, one week before, according to an ESPN tally, only nine players of the nearly 1700 in the NFL were kneeling or sitting or raising a fist during the national anthem.

That is until the president chose to enter the fray and called those men, those nine men sons of bitches and demanded they be fired.

Let us begin today our discussion with the simple proposition that, for most Americans, where you come down on the debate over protests during the national anthem at a football game is not wrong, per se, that those who want to take a knee or raise a fist are doing so not because they hate America or the flag or the anthem, but because they love them and they want the United States of America to be the best she can be, and they see too much racial injustice to do nothing, people such as the Seattle Seahawks' Michael Bennett, who us just a few days ago after Charlottesville he could no longer do nothing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BENNETT, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: There's a point where silence is becoming dishonest.

Every day, I try to remind my daughter that she matters and that she's important and that her skin doesn't matter, she's going to be judged off the content of her character, like Martin Luther King says, but every day when I watch TV, I'm reminded that that's not the America that I'm living in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: And also let's posit today that those who oppose these protests, during moments that are supposed to be unifying, and when many are thinking about troops and veterans, especially those who have been lost, that those who feel that way are not necessarily wrong either, and that they too have every right to their feelings and demonstrations and should not automatically be treated as hostile to the desire for racial justice, people such as Teri Johnson, a Gold Star mother who lost her son, Sergeant Joseph Johnson, in an IED attack in Afghanistan in 2010 and who spoke with us as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERI MAXWELL JOHNSON, GOLD STAR MOM: The flag that I see is the flag that draped my son's casket in honor. And I see the flag that was handed to my husband and I with deep respect from a grateful nation. When I look at the flag, I see the best of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Let's start there, because that's where we as a nation were until Friday evening. Some people were protesting. Some people were disagreeing with the protests. Some were booing. Some were changing the channel. Others were rooting along.

And then President Trump stepped into the debate this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Though the original protests are about race, and the protesters were almost entirely black, and the team owners whom the president was calling upon to fire or suspend those players are almost entirely white, and the president chose to launch this campaign in front of an almost all-white crowd in front of Alabama, despite all that, the president insisted that this has nothing to do with race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This has nothing to do with race. I have never said anything about race. This has nothing to do with race or anything else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It is 100 percent true that the president never said anything about race. He did not have to. This entire discussion is about black men protesting racial injustice.

One, of course, wonders why, in the president's view, a black man protesting racial injustices by kneeling during the anthem is a son of a bitch, while whites marching along Nazis and the Klan to protest the removal of the statue of a Confederate general is a -- quote -- "very fine person."

But I digress.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders earlier this afternoon insisted that the president's tirade and subsequent tweets were not about the president being against anyone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, this isn't about the president being against anyone. But this is about the president and millions of Americans being for something, being for honoring our flag, honoring our national anthem and honoring the men and women who fought to defend it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: It is not, of course, just the NFL responding today.

Today, basketball's LeBron James spoke out forcefully against President Trump's remarks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: We have to figure out a way how we come together and be as great as we can as people, because the people run this country, not one individual, and damn sure not him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Interestingly, President Trump before Friday had previously said, just two days into his presidency -- quote -- "Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don't always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views" -- unquote.

And last fall, when asked about Colin Kaepernick, who began these protests, the president said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think what he's doing is very bad for the spirit of the country. At the same time, he has the right to protest. And that's one of the beautiful things about the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's one of the beautiful things about this country.

But something has changed. And now President Trump wants us to be having this debate. And apparently he wants us to be doing it in an ugly and angry manner.

A year ago, we hosted a town hall with troops and veterans and President Trump was asked about Colin Kaepernick.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want Mr. Kaepernick and others who are on a knee, I want them to listen to the pain that that may cause, but I also want people to think about the pain that he may be expressing about somebody who has lost a loved one that they think was unfairly shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Hmm. listening to each other and thinking about what the other person said, instead of just calling those with whom we disagree a son of a bitch.

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