By Stanton Charlton
sacharlton@csbsju.edu

The presidency of Donald Trump has been a smashing success. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently, don’t pay attention to the approval ratings, and don’t bother following the news; it’s all fake anyway. Donald Trump is unifying America.

Last Friday night, Trump made an appearance at a rally in Alabama. At the rally, he made the bold claim that any NFL player who kneels during the national anthem should be fired. On Sunday, he took his comments a step further,
encouraging fans to stop attending NFL games until players stop  “disrespecting our flag and country.”

This is the latest chapter in a year-long saga that started with the former San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick actively protested police brutality and systemic racism by kneeling during the national anthem before the start of every game last season.

The protests were highly polarizing and Kaepernick is likely not on a football team this season because of them. Besides scoffing at anthem protesters, Trump also scoffed at the need to prevent concussions in the NFL. Efforts to do so, heexclaimed, are “ruining the game.” Trump’s timing is impeccable when one considers what we now know about former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.

In a post-mortem examination of Hernandez’s brain, it was revealed that he suffered from the degenerative brain disease, Chronic Traumatic  Encephalopathy (CTE), at just 27 years old. Hernandez committed suicide in April after being linked to and convicted of various homicides between 2007 and 2013.

CTE has been tied to concussions in football after showing up in the brain scans of more than 100 former NFL players. It is unfortunate that Trump would mock brain disease. It is also unfortunate that Trump would discourage athletes from vocalizing their support for causes they believe in and from protesting against any form of injustice; the latter goes against everything America should stand for, and places an asterisk over what should be considered free speech.

Numerous NFL owners such as Robert Kraft and Stephen Ross have deemed Trump’s comments offensive and disappointing. Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell chimed in, describing Trump’s comments as “divisive” and stating that “The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture.”

Prior to Trump’s comments, the NFL was clearly divided on the topic of protesting the national anthem, but now, the league appears to be a more united front. When a person consistently tweets demonizing people and when a person
discourages dissent over and over again, the American thing to do is unite and say “this is wrong.”

Trump is that person, and unite is what we must do. What the NFL’s national  anthem protests should teach us is that it is important to have discussions that are uncomfortable. It is okay to disagree with one another. We must acknowledge that everyone has different experiences on these campuses and in this country. We need a president to force us to have the uncomfortable
discussions regarding free speech, race and difference, and Trump is exactly that.

Trump may not be who many—including myself—wanted to be President of the
United States, but we need him now more than ever.

This is the opinion of Stanton Charlton, SJU senior