Sports Illustrated Writer Slams ‘White Male Conservative’ NFL Fans

Appearing on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports Friday afternoon to blast the NFL’s new policy against national anthem protests, Sports Illustrated writer Jonathan Jones slammed the League for calling on player’s to show respect during the patriotic ceremony and ranted that Commissioner Roger Goodell was just trying to appeal to “white male conservative” fans.

Mitchell gushed over Jones recently grilling Goodell about the meaning of “respect for the flag” and the anthem. She teed up a clip of the exchange, in which Jones claimed the concept of showing respect was arbitrary: “Who’s the arbiter of respect for the flag? What would be considered disrespect for the flag and anthem? And why would the League and the owners kind of willingly attempt to police something that is subjective like this?”

 

 

Goodell replied in part: “Well, I think the general public has a very strong view of what respect for the flag is in that moment.”

After the soundbite, Mitchell sneered: “Jonathan, in other words, he didn’t have an answer for you.” Jones remarked: “Yeah, it was pretty unsatisfactory, wasn’t it?” Mitchell agreed with an emphatic “Yeah.”

Jones then launched into a monologue arguing that the NFL’s new policy was just a way of appeasing “white male conservative” fans:

And look, the general public – I guess the idea that everyone understands what respect for the flag is, I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case, right? Everyone who’s in the stands is taking pictures on their cell phone, that’s certainly not respecting the flag. There are folks getting concessions. If you’re at home, you’re grabbing a beer.

I think this idea of the general public or the NFL fan is one that’s rooted in the white male, and especially the white male conservative. And I think that it has really kind of forgotten a whole other set of the fan. Not just the people who are threatening to boycott the NFL because of players kneeling, but also the people who decided to tune out of NFL because of the NFL’s response to those players kneeling. I think it totally ignores those fan who look a lot like me.

Turning to reliably left-wing Washington Post commentator Jonathan Capehart, Mitchell fretted: “And, in fact, Jonathan Capehart, this is predicated on a whole political assumption where President Trump as candidate Trump and president tried to make much of it to appeal to his base for whatever reasons.”

Capehart offered a predictable tirade against the President:

Well, I’m an opinion writer, Andrea, so I’m just going to be blunt about what the President did. This was racial, dog whistle politics. If he’s going to play to his base by targeting an African-American football player because he’s kneeling because he wants to draw attention to the fact African-American men and boys were being the targets of police brutality and gun violence, why must you gin up your base to make an example of this person in a League that is predominantly African-American?

Later, in the 2:00 p.m. ET hour, anchor Craig Melvin hosted a similar panel discussion on the topic, in which former NFL Quarterback Donte Stallworth attacked Trump’s “fake patriotism”:

 

 

I think that the NFL has essentially placated to the whims of an emotional, vindictive President who has had his issues with the NFL going back decades. Trying to purchase a team, the NFL not allowing him to purchase a team, so he's been attacking the NFL for a number of different reasons and hiding behind the issue of fake patriotism to try to rally his base for this cause specifically.

But I think the NFL has probably done themselves a disservice here on a number of different levels. I think number one, they've done themselves a disservice by being on the wrong side of history here. They may have been acting for their bottom line which is essentially what all businesses do, all countries do that. You act in the interest here of bottom line. But history will vindicate I think these players like history has done in the past to players who have spoken out against social inequalities.

He predicted a “huge backlash” against the decision.

Stallworth was joined on the show by former MSNBC anchor Toure Neblett, who echoed the racial rhetoric from Jones:

History will remember the NFL, the institution, trying to silence them rather than letting them have their say....White America, the white NFL fans, President Trump, the right – the political right in this country – have stepped to this and completely ignored what the players were saying and made it about the military, made it about the respect for the game, the first amendment, the anthem....It’s absolutely been coopted and changed and the NFL is responding to the white fans and President Trump making it something that it’s not.

Here is a transcript of Mitchell’s May 25 exchange with Jones:

12:37 PM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: The NFL has sparked new fire – a new firestorm, I should say – in the heated debate over national anthem protests. The League now outlining its new policy to fine teams who’s players take a knee on the field. A move largely seen as a bid to repair a public outcry fueled in part by the White House, after players protested social injustice against minorities by kneeling during the national anthem.

The policy allows players to remain in the locker room during pre-game ceremonies, if they prefer. But the response from around the League was swift. Because, first, it was agreed to without even consulting the NFL players union, which is now vowing to challenge the policy. And there are also new reports that the League members never took a formal vote. Joining me now is Jonathan Jones, National NFL Writer for Sports Illustrated, and Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post Opinion Writer and MSNBC contributor. And a former sports reporter for Way Too Early, but that’s just between us.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: Loosely a reporter.

MITCHELL: Very loosely. Jonathan Jones, first of all, you were at the news conference with [Roger] Goodell the other day, the day before yesterday I think. And now there are all sorts of new reports that they didn’t even take a vote. I wanted to show you questioning him about this policy. If you’ll stand by, we’ll get that tape ready.

JONATHAN JONES: Who’s the arbiter of respect for the flag? What would be considered disrespect for the flag and anthem? And why would the League and the owners kind of willingly attempt to police something that is subjective like this?

ROGER GOODELL [NFL COMMISSIONER]: Well, I think the general public has a very strong view of what respect for the flag is in that moment. I think the general arbiter will be the clubs and the League, and we’ll work with our players and get their viewpoint also.

MITCHELL: Jonathan, in other words, he didn’t have an answer for you.

JONES: Yeah, it was pretty unsatisfactory, wasn’t it?

MITCHELL: Yeah.

JONES: And look, the general public – I guess the idea that everyone understands what respect for the flag is, I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case, right? Everyone who’s in the stands is taking pictures on their cell phone, that’s certainly not respecting the flag. There are folks getting concessions. If you’re at home, you’re grabbing a beer.

I think this idea of the general public or the NFL fan is one that’s rooted in the white male, and especially the white male conservative. And I think that it has really kind of forgotten a whole other set of the fan. Not just the people who are threatening to boycott the NFL because of players kneeling, but also the people who decided to tune out of NFL because of the NFL’s response to those players kneeling. I think it totally ignores those fan who look a lot like me.

MITCHELL: And, in fact, Jonathan Capehart, this is predicated on a whole political assumption where President Trump as candidate Trump and president tried to make much of it to appeal to his base for whatever reasons. And made something that Colin Kaepernick did to be treated pejoratively rather than an isolated incident or something that was an expression of First Amendment rights.

CAPEHART: Well, I’m an opinion writer, Andrea, so I’m just going to be blunt about what the President did. This was racial, dog whistle politics. If he’s going to play to his base by targeting an African-American football player because he’s kneeling because he wants to draw attention to the fact African-American men and boys were being the targets of police brutality and gun violence, why must you gin up your base to make an example of this person in a League that is predominantly African-American?

MITCHELL: More than 70%.

CAPEHART: Right.

(...)


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