Sanders: If NFL players are upset about police brutality, why aren't they protesting police at the game?

She ended up walking this back and clarifying, but hoo boy. “Why aren’t people protesting the police?” is the last soundbite you’d expect from the Law-n-Order administration.

There’s a germ of a point in what she says but it works for both sides. One reason why Kaepernick and other players have focused on making a gesture during the anthem instead of leading anti-police protests is that protesting the police would be *less* popular than protesting during the anthem. For all the hype about the boldness of taking a knee, it’s a far more politic alternative than, say, waving Black Lives Matter paraphernalia on the sidelines before the game would be. You could argue, as she sort of does, that they should own their message and risk the public opprobrium.

But that logic is also something the players could point to as proof that they’d be damned no matter what they did. If Marshawn Lynch and LeBron James and Steph Curry started leading Black Lives Matter marches, they’d eat tons of crap for it even though they did it on their own time, away from the game. If they took Sanders’s advice here and actually stooped to protesting the police tasked with protecting them *at the game*, they’d never hear the end of it, rightly. What sort of protest should they do that would (a) make their point, (b) do it in a visible forum, to draw attention to their cause, and (c) *not* piss off fans who don’t like their sports tribalism complicated by political tribalism?

“I think if this — the debate is really for them about police brutality they should probably protest the officers on the field who are protecting them instead of the American flag,” Sanders said.

She later clarified that she wasn’t suggesting people protest police, but was pointing out that it is inappropriate to protest the flag over their concerns.

“No, no that’s not what I’m saying. I was kind of pointing out the hypocrisy of the fact that if the goal is and the message is one of police brutality, then that doesn’t seem very appropriate to protest the American flag. I’m not sure how those two things would be combined,” Sanders said.

They’re not “protesting the American flag,” though. They’re making the point that police brutality is an affront to American ideals by protesting it during the flag’s display. Except now, thanks to Trump seizing the issue, they’re also sort of protesting Trump, which muddles the message. David French understands:

He told his political opponents on the football field — men who have defined their lives and careers by their mental and physical toughness — to essentially, “Do what I say or lose your job.” In so doing, he put them in straits far more difficult to navigate than anything Colin Kaepernick has wrought: Stand and they are seen to obey a man who just abused his office, and millions of Americans will view them as a sellout not just to the political cause they love but also to the Constitution itself; kneel and they defy a rogue president, but millions of Americans will view them as disrespecting the nation itself to score political points against a president those Americans happen to like.

At one stroke, thanks to an attempted vulgar display of strength, Trump changed the playing of the anthem and the display of the flag from a moment where all but the most radical Americans could unite to one where millions of well-meaning Americans could and did legitimately believe that the decision to kneel represented a defense of the ideals of the flag, not defiance of the nation they love.

This is, as noted yesterday, an issue on which both sides should find it easy to understand the other’s perspective, but nothing’s easy anymore.

Here she is followed (via the Free Beacon) by Jim Acosta asking her if Trump isn’t waging a “culture war” by contrasting NASCAR’s opposition to flag protests with the NFL’s support for them, noting the very different racial demographics each sport caters to. I think he meant to say something like “racial war” but lost his nerve, fearing that that would be too incendiary even for him. All presidents wage culture war. Trump’s just a bit more in-your-face than others.