MSNBC: Sports Editor Calling Trump and Fox News ‘Neo-Nazis’ Is ‘Absolutely Brilliant’, ‘Thought-Provoking’

During Tuesday morning’s broadcast of MSNBC Live, MSNBC Senior National Correspondent Chris Jansing and anchor Ayman Mohyeldin brought on The Nation’s Sports Editor Dave Zirin to argue that President Trump’s attacks on NFL players protesting the National Anthem earlier this year was actually a campaign of “open, ugly racism” that was deliberately aimed at discouraging black athletes from expressing their political opinions.

Last week, Zirin published a column for The Nation that made pretty much the same case, lambasting “Donald Trump, Fox News, and their neo-Nazi-infused right-wing echo chamber” for spending “a year frothing with rabid barbarism” to shut down the voices of black athletes. Jansing and Mohyeldin promoted Zirin’s piece as both “thought-provoking” and “absolutely brilliant,” but failed to correct him as he repeatedly spread blatant misinformation on the air to support his talking points.

 

 

The MSNBC Live segment began with a short clip of Trump’s Huntsville, Alabama speech from September 22nd. This was when the President initially made his remarks in opposition to the NFL National Anthem protests. After playing the clip, Jansing welcomed Zirin on by lauding his article:

Yeah, Colin Kaepernick obviously got under the President's skin this year. Joining us from Washington, D.C., a sports editor for The Nation, Dave Zirin. In his latest piece, Dave says he strayed from his usual formula for reviewing the year in sports and politics, writing, quote: “Now, in 2017, we have reached another place. The fight has spread beyond racial issues, as the #MeToo movement has become a part of the sports rhetoric of resistance. But this has also been the year of the backlash: open, ugly racism aimed at athletes who recognize that, in historical moments such as this one, they” need “to do more than just shut up and play.” Dave, always good to see you.

“Such a thought-provoking piece. Tell me sort of what got you in this frame of mind. Was there one particular incident? Was it Colin Kaepernick,” Jansing wondered. Zirin answered Jansing’s question by implying that Trump’s speech was responsible for NFL players receiving death threats and other abuse:

And the thing that really stuck with me was when Donald Trump made that speech in Huntsville, Alabama where he used vulgarity about the players and said that they should be fired and forced to stand for the anthem, that the reaction of that in the lives of these players was so intense, whether it was social media harassment, whether it was actual death threats against their family, whether it was having to hire security around their houses. These players felt a tremendous amount of pressure.

The Nation writer went on to praise the NFL anthem-protestors as exemplars of political activism before Mohyeldin stepped in to ask more specifically about Zirin's argument that Trump’s criticism of the protestors was primarily a vehicle for activating the “neo-Nazi” elements of the President’s base.

“Yeah, look, it's, it’s not a dog whistle, it's an air raid siren,” Zirin declared. “If you look at some of the people in the sports world who have actually been the most critical of Donald Trump, you have people like Gregg Popovich, the coach of the Spurs, Steve Kerr, the coach of the Golden State Warriors. No response from Donald Trump to either of them. They happen to be white.”

Zirin’s argument here was extremely disingenuous. His implication that Trump has not criticized white people involved with the NFL players’ protests is flat-out wrong. Trump may not have criticized the two NBA coaches that Zirin mentioned, but he certainly has attacked white NFL coaches and owners for failing to prevent their players from disrespecting the anthem. According to The Daily Mail:

'I have spoken to a couple of them. They say, "We are in a situation where we have to do something." I think they are afraid of their players, you want to know the truth. And I think it's disgraceful.'

(…)

The president added that the owners themselves – not just their star athletes – show a lack of respect for the United States by refusing to enforce a rule that requires players to stand.

Later on in the same segment, MSNBC Political Analyst Elise Jordan and Zirin jointly made the case that some of Trump’s other comments about football and the NFL were indicative of his sociopathy, and Zirin incorrectly claimed that Trump has “never played football.”

 

 

This assertion was quite strange, as multiple mainstream sources attest to the fact that Trump played football while he was a student at New York Military Academy. According to Business Insider [emphasis mine]: “The yearbook shows that Trump, the son of millionaire real-estate developer Fred Trump, was a member of the varsity soccer, baseball, and football teams. He also won numerous awards including some for his athletic performance and a ‘neatness and order medal’ in 1960.”

Neither Jansing nor Mohyeldin called out Zirin for espousing his own brand of “alternative facts.” Instead, Mohyeldin simply declared that Zirin’s article was “absolutely brilliant” and ended the show.

If you’re curious as to why Zirin might have been so willing to spread obvious disinformation to make his arguments, one of his statements from the middle of Tuesday’s segment was instructive:

Because I think oftentimes you see people compare Colin Kaepernick to someone like Muhammad Ali, or Venus and Serena Williams, to someone like Billie Jean King, and people immediately clap back at that and say things like: Wait, that’s totally different, different times. [...] And the answer is, like, yes, it is completely different in some respects, but in other respects, we have so much to learn from this history as well. And we can actually build upon the history of previous generations of activist athletes to understand not only how to keep pushing forward sports as a platform for social change, but also keep pushing forward the very idea that you don't sign away, you know, your right to citizenship or to have a political opinion just because you're an athlete [...].

The Nation may be an openly politically “progressive” publication, but their penchant for sympathizing with and wanting to promote left-wing activist causes should not give their editorial staff or journalists carte blanche to lie on national TV.

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See below for a full transcript of the segment:

8:52 AM EST

CHRIS JANSING [MSNBC, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT]: Now, 2017 also saw a collision between politics and sports.

[playing clip from Sept. 22, Huntsville, AL rally]

DONALD TRUMP: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say: Get that son of a [bleep] off the field right now? Out! He’s fired.

[audience cheering]

He's fired!

[clip ends]

JANSING: Yeah, Colin Kaepernick obviously got under the President's skin this year. Joining us from Washington, D.C., a sports editor for The Nation, Dave Zirin. In his latest piece, Dave says he strayed from his usual formula for reviewing the year in sports and politics, writing, quote: “Now, in 2017, we have reached another place. The fight has spread beyond racial issues, as the #MeToo movement has become a part of the sports rhetoric of resistance. But this has also been the year of the backlash: open, ugly racism aimed at athletes who recognize that, in historical moments such as this one, they” need “to do more than just shut up and play.” Dave, always good to see you.

AYMAN MOHYELDIN [MSNBC, ANCHOR]: Yeah.

JANSING: Such a thought-provoking piece. Tell me sort of what got you in this frame of mind. Was there one particular incident? Was it Colin Kaepernick? Was it just, in general,-

DAVE ZIRIN: [softly] Yeah.

JANSING: -what we've seen over the course of the year?

ZIRIN: Yeah, I mean, I speak to a lot of NFL players, particularly the ones who’ve been part of these protests this year, kneeling or sitting or raising their fist during the anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality. And the thing that really struck with me was when Donald Trump made that speech in Huntsville, Alabama where he used vulgarity about the players and said that they should be fired and forced to stand for the anthem, that the reaction of that in the lives of these players was so intense, whether it was social media harassment, whether it was actual death threats against their family, whether it was having to hire security around their houses. These players felt a tremendous amount of pressure.

And yet, within this incredibly ugly story, to me, I found something that gave me more hope than almost anything in 2017, because -- well and I’ll tell you what that was. One of the concerns of the players was that once Donald Trump made that speech, everything would become about Trump and the message of the protests would be completely lost. And yet, a poll taken a month later by Huffington Post and YouGov showed that more people in the United States understood what the protests were about, by a pretty significant margin, after Trump made those remarks than before. And that's because these NFL players, you know, who are often stereotyped as jocks, who, you know, don't know anything and, you know, are only good for selling ads or sports drinks, they were tenacious on shows like this one, on other, you know, national news programs, of not taking the bait and making this about Trump versus the athletes, but staying on message about police brutality and racial inequality. And I think there's a lesson in there, taught by the jocks, to all of us, that when you just enter the social media bubble of back and forth jibes, we don't really get anywhere in terms of advancing either policy or political arguments.

MOHYELDIN: Dave, let me ask you really quickly about some of the, uh, the accusations that the President's comments have had racial undertones to them.

ZIRIN: Sure.

MOHYELDIN: When you think of some of the comments that have been made by the athletes, and many of them prominent black athletes, and the response that the President had, has given — he's, he’s categorically denied that this has anything to do without [sic] race, but in some of the evidence that have [sic] been cited here, in the article, it seems that there is a racial undertone with the way the President is responding-

ZIRIN: Of course.

MOHYELDIN: -to the criticism from these athletes.

ZIRIN: Yeah, look, it's, it’s not a dog whistle, it's an air raid siren. If you look at some of the people in the sports world who have actually been the most critical of Donald Trump, you have people like Gregg Popovich, the coach of the Spurs, Steve Kerr, the coach of the Golden State Warriors. No response from Donald Trump to either of them. They happen to be white. The people who he has responded to are people like Colin Kaepernick, Jemele Hill from ESPN, LaVar Ball of course. Um, there's this focusing, this honing in on, quote/unquote, “ungrateful” people in the sports world who are black. And I just wanna point out that this is a very old playbook in this country. It dates back to Jack Johnson, who was condemned by the U.S. Congress. He was the first black heavyweight boxing champion. And this idea that when you focus on black athletes, what you do is you feed white resentment, because there’s anger about -- whether it's their salary, their fame, or this idea that, you know, they should be grateful for having these opportunities as if they haven't worked for them and are one in, you know, a million people who would have the skill and ability to achieve that plateau.

JANSING: Yeah, and in the, in the article, I mean, you talk about athletes in the past who have had a, a very big impact on the, on the conversation, whether it was Muhammad Ali or Jackie Robinson or Billie Jean King.

ZIRIN: Yeah.

JANSING: Having said that, you had an interesting quote from Mark Twain, which is: “History doesn’t repeat itself,” buzz it, “but it does rhyme.” Explain that.

ZIRIN: No, absolutely. Because I think oftentimes you see people compare Colin Kaepernick to someone like Muhammad Ali, or Venus and Serena Williams, to someone like Billie Jean King, and people immediately clap back at that and say things like: Wait, that’s totally different, different times. Muhammad Ali was facing five years in prison for opposing the draft. Or, Billie Jean King was, you know, on that first wave of the women's liberation movement in the '70s. It's completely different. And the answer is, like, yes, it is completely different in some respects, but in other respects, we have so much to learn from this history as well. And we can actually build upon the history of previous generations of activist athletes to understand not only how to keep pushing forward sports as a platform for social change, but also keep pushing forward the very idea that you don't sign away, you know, your right to citizenship or to have a political opinion just because you're an athlete, as well as how to navigate backlashes.

ELISE JORDAN: Dave, Elise here. You spoke about how some of the players needed security in the aftermath of President Trump-

ZIRIN: Yeah.

JORDAN: -singling them out at that rally in Alabama. I also found just as disturbing in that rally -- he said that NFL players weren't being hit as hard.

ZIRIN: Yeah.

JORDAN: And he was somewhat -- it seemed that he was endorsing, uh, CT, you know, con-, uh, concussions. It seemed that he was endorsing-

ZIRIN: Yeah.

JORDAN: -brain damage for these players and for the players not to be protected. How did the players respond to that?

ZIRIN: Well, th-, that was actually one of the things that upset the players the most when I spoke to them, because one thing that every player lives with now is this existential fear that their brain is actually disintegrating when they take the field. And it's something that they live with and their families live with. And Donald Trump, who act-, who never played football -- I mean, it frankly -- it's not -- while I loathe comparisons to football and war, which far too many people make, there is a comparison there of Donald Trump, someone who both never fought in, in, in our military, but also never played football, speaking about it as a vicarious observer-

MOHYELDIN: Right.

ZIRIN: -and calling for more violence and wanting more violence while having no sympathy, no empathy, or no dialogue with the people who actually have to take the field.

MOHYELDIN: Yeah, an absolutely brilliant article.

(...)


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