If you checked in with the mainstream media over the past couple of months you would be led to believe that Donald Trump is the cause of most of the country’s ills these days. Despite never having served a day in any elected office, signed a single piece of legislation, ordered any pairs of boots on the ground in any nation or negotiated so much as one treaty, Trump is responsible for the coarsening of American discourse, rising tides of racial unrest and the failure of the McRib to permanently remain on McDonald’s lunch menu. But now, according to Mike Freeman at Bleacher Report, The Donald is also the reason that the NFL is coming apart at the seams.
Interviews by B/R Mag with dozens of NFL players about Trump over the past four months reveal that scenes of a divided America sparked by the candidate have been replicated inside at least a half-dozen locker rooms of its most popular sport. Some players cite low-level confrontations. Others say friendships have ended. Many see a toughness that could cross political boundaries and a business acumen that’s attractive to the likes of Tom Brady, only for the candidate’s racial bluster to spark more outrage. At least one coach has insisted there be no more player discussions of Trump—not a ban on politics in general, just Trump—while on team property.
Four weeks into the NFL season and four weeks from Election Day, amid an increasingly politicized league confronting on-field protests every Sunday, a straw poll of 43 players by B/R Mag shows:
- 20 of 22 black NFL players plan to vote for Hillary Clinton.
- 2 of 22 black NFL players plan to vote for Donald J. Trump.
- 21 of 21 white NFL players plan to vote for Trump.
Bleacher report goes on to acknowledge that their poll is “unscientific” at best and that’s tough to argue. Asking 43 people who are willing to talk about something other than football out of more than 1,600 men on the rosters of 32 teams is rather sketchy. But let’s just say for the moment that it’s not. Even if that represented the political preferences of the NFL’s starters… so what? You’re not seeing or describing something unique to the NFL. That could be any workplace in the United States. The fact that they don’t agree on who to vote for in the upcoming election is as about as surprising as a Boston snowstorm in February.
The NFL has problems at the moment and no reasonable observer would argue with that. Ratings are down for games and there are far too many headlines associated with players, coaches and owners which have nothing to do with the game. But if people are being turned off to the greatest sport in America it’s not because they’re freaking out over players arguing over who to vote for. It’s the dark cloud which the league seems to be unable to clear from over its head. People want to see football. They want to root for their team and jeer at their divisional rivals. We want to fill out our fantasy bench and share a beer with friends while we watch a classic battle on the gridiron. We don’t need to see people protesting the national anthem, debating medical science over brain injuries or have our eyes assaulted with garish colors every month in support of this or that cause.
Get back to the game, boys. The election will sort itself out soon enough. Autumn is here and it’s time to play ball.