On Monday evening, Donald Trump decided to cancel a White House celebration of the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl win, citing the national anthem as the sticking point.
The move drew fierce criticism from the usual suspects and, of course, the City of Philadelphia. It was, as far as I can tell, an incredibly petty move that that does nothing for the President except invite needless controversy. Here’s why.
1. It Is Incredibly Petty
The fact of the matter is that Trump has doubled- and tripled-down on the national anthem controversy far too often in an effort to stir-up support among his base. Once again, it is a matter of Trump needing to find an opponent rather than just govern, because there is no real political or electoral victory that is going to be had here. His supporters agree with him, his opponents disagree, and those on the fence wonder why in the hell he’s getting involved.
But, the real pettiness comes in when you consider that it was likely many members of the Eagles team would have turned down the invitation. Knowing that, he issues this cancelation, which basically tells the NFL franchise “You don’t want to come? Fine, you weren’t invited anyway!” It is childish and completely obvious. And, it leads us to reason number two.
2. It Makes Him the Confrontational One
Had Trump let it be and kept the celebration as planned, the members of the Eagles team who refused to show up would have been the petty ones. Now, Trump has made it about his pettiness, and the Eagles get to walk away clean. This is now Donald Trump’s cancelation instead of the Eagles’ protest. When you look at the numbers from the past year, NFL players and teams protesting only hurts their ratings. They could have been hurting themselves more in a state that Trump won in 2016, but instead, Trump has become the aggressor and insulted the team.
Now, the media’s focus – which, to be fair, was always going to be negative on Trump – will be about how he canceled it and insulted Philadelphia. That isn’t a good look. It was needlessly confrontational at a time when he would do well to take steps to unite. But, that’s just not what he does. Which, naturally, leads us to reason number three.
3. He Only Hurts Himself in Doing This
I mentioned earlier that Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016. Since then, the GOP has struggled there. The urban areas are undoubtedly liberal, but the blue collar workers of the state supported Trump in the presidential election because they connected with him. The best way to alienate them? Insult one of their teams. There’s no upside, no value to canceling the Super Bowl celebration when it comes to trying to keep a hold on Pennsylvania.
But, it’s not just there. There is nothing in this that makes him look good to people outside of his base – a base that is not going to be as big in 2018 as it was in 2016. At the risk of repeating myself, it’s the fact that he is not looking to unite anyone and instead focuses on whoever he can make into a political bogeyman that drives me crazy. He has a chance to be the bigger man here, and instead, he is choosing to divide people over the dumbest of reasons. That isn’t going to translate to more votes for the GOP in 2018.
4. The Kneeling/Standing for the Anthem Issue Is Dumb
I’m sorry. If you don’t like that a player is standing or kneeling, don’t watch that player. Don’t try to tell me that it matters in the grand scheme of this country. We are granted the right to protest by our Constitution (so long as we’re not inciting violence, which the NFL players aren’t), and if they don’t care that they are hurting their employers’ bottom line by doing so, let them do it.
If their protest works and they raise awareness for police violence against African Americans and the problems begin to lessen, how is that a bad thing? It doesn’t tear the moral fabric of America if they stop black men from getting shot by police at a much higher rate than white men. It doesn’t destroy who we are as a nation. If anything, it makes us better. How is that a bad thing?
If you don’t think this move by the President comes off as petty and pointless, then cool. But, keep in mind that there are a lot of people who do, and the GOP is already going to take a hit in November. It’s up to him to help mitigate that damage, and alienating people doesn’t help the cause at all.