CNN's Don Lemon: Has Trump Sparked a "Whitelash" Against NFL Players And Supporters


CNN's Don Lemon discusses a potential "whitelash" created by President Trump with network contributor Van Jones and his panel. From Friday's broadcast of CNN Tonight:

DON LEMON, CNN: So we're back now with my panel. I want to bring them back in. Scott Jennings, Van Jones and David Swerdlick. Scott, I read those numbers differently than you read them. Because it shows that -- I think that most people think that the players have the right to do it. They have the right, that they're doing the right thing or that they had the right to do it, not that they're doing the right thing. But I think that I read that differently, that poll differently than you did. Van, I'm not sure if that is what you wanted to comment on.

VAN JONES, CNN: Well, what I want to say is what's surprising -- it's not surprising that the majority of Americans look down on this protest. If you look at the 1960s, 1963, 67, 70 percent of white Americans said, hey, stop this black protesting. This freedom rights, you're hurting your cause, the sit-in movement, you're hurting your cause. Cut it out, it's bad. Huge numbers of people in the '60s with Dr. King said stop these black protests. When you look at these numbers, these are some of the most popular black protests in American history. If you look at contextually, what they're doing are some of the most popular protests in American history with white folks, because in general the white public has not liked to see black folks protesting. So I see it differently.

LEMON: I see it differently because everyone, listen, when taking a knee, that is in reverence. But even the player I had on Michael Thomas of the Miami Dolphins said to me the other night, he said, everybody would like to stand. I think most people would like to stand. What the issue is that -- in that poll, 60 percent of Americans think that President Trump did the wrong thing by criticizing the athletes. This doesn't necessarily that they agree with what they did, but they think he should not have inserted himself. If you ask someone should you stand up for the flag? Of course they say you should stand up for the flag. But did he do the right thing in calling them sons of bitches and saying they should be fired, the majority of people saying, no, he shouldn't have done that. Van, I was talking to you, because I interrupted you.

JONES: I mean Donald Trump never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Here's an issue where his concern is this line with public opinion, but the way he deals with it is actually, you know, puts him in a super minority in terms of people who are able to somehow bring himself to support his language and demeanor. I want to say this as clearly as I can say it. In this country, African- Americans, no matter what we do -- when we sit in, when we freedom ride, when we kneel in, whatever it is, the initial response from the public tends to be overwhelmingly negative, because basically we're kind of raining on folks' parades, I don't want to hear this stuff. As time goes on, the Muhammad Ali's and all the people that raised those issues, they then become heroes later. They're never heroes in the moment. They're heroes later on when people reflect on the courage they showed and the issues that they raised. And that is really where we are. Colin Kaepernick, as the years go on, will be a more and more revered figure and frankly, Donald Trump is in danger of being a more and more reviled figure as the years go on.

LEMON: Another message, David, from the President seems to be that he gets to define what patriotism is and who is patriotic.

SWERDLICK: That is right, Don. And I think he is made the mistake here kind of along the lines of what Van is saying by casting his view in the way that he did. There was a point just a week ago where the owners and management in the NFL were a lot closer to the position of the President by castigating the players in this way, he has driven the owners closer to the players because they -- I think been able to see that, ok, now when you have the players versus the President of the United States, you can see more clearly what the players are trying to do. The players have said Colin Kaepernick has said, his former teammate Eric Reed said in "The New York Times" this week that they chose kneeling specifically, because they wanted to do a protest in the most respectful way possible. They didn't stay in the locker room. They didn't turn their backs on the flag. They came out for the anthem, but knelt to underscore what is the underlying issue here, which is police violence and the tension between communities of color and police. But, no, no, go ahead.

LEMON: Not to rush you guys along but I want to get to two things. Why do we play the national anthem at a ball game anyway? Why is that such a big deal?

JENNINGS: We play it at a lot of events. I view it as one of the rituals that we all go through together that reminds us that we're all in this together. We're all Americans and we're all in this experience together. But there's an important set of rituals we go through that sort of give us that every now and then reminder that, hey, we're all Americans and what does it mean to be an American? It means we're all in this country together and we're all fighting for the same thing, the same freedom, and the same liberty. I think when people see what they perceive as disrespect of those rituals, they have a visceral reaction. Trump has a visceral reaction, a lot of his supporters do. According to a CNN poll 90 percent of his supporters had the same reaction that he did. There's a population that don't like to see people disrespecting the rituals that reminds us, hey, we're all in this together.

LEMON: That is been my whole point. Is that this President has had the chance to elevate and educate people to realize that just by draping yourself in the flag is not necessarily patriotism. That is just a ritual and rituals can be hollow. Van, when you step back and think about all the President has said about the NFL players, and I know that -- is this a white lash against the players and the supporters that is what's resulted here?

JONES: If you take a big step back, there's something happening throughout the west that this politics of resentment, this politics of kind of finding these dog whistle issues is becoming a playbook for a certain set of politicians. You saw that happening in Germany, very far right people who made it to parliament in Germany. Playing us against each other. And I think the President of the United States is all too often guilty of those same kinds of tactics. I think that we have forgotten -- we've got of lost the plot here. Those NFL players, the African-American ones, they say well, they're rich. They should just be grateful. They shouldn't complain. Rich celebrities shouldn't complain. Donald Trump is a rich celebrity --

LEMON: All the time.

JONES: -- and he is been complaining all the time. Apparently it's ok to be a rich celebrity and complain. Ask the President. That is how he got where he is. They say they shouldn't raise these issues, a lot of these guys are two or three years out of the hood. Their families still live there. They're getting text messages from cousins. They go home to thanksgiving to neighborhoods where if it was mine or yours or Donald Trump's neighborhood, they would be screaming and yelling something is going terribly wrong. The street violence and the police violence. Too much violence, too many funerals. They're doing a good thing for American racist issues.

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