Why Trump Slaps Down Minority Protests

There’s a troubling subtext to President Trump’s harsh attacks on people of color who complain and protest, as if he thinks they should keep quiet and know their place, as Michael Winship observes.

By Michael Winship

A post-surgical convalescence has held me captive to the 24/7 news cycle more than usual so I’ve been far too immersed than is healthy in the concurrent sagas of Donald Trump versus the National Football League and the United States Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Hence a couple of thoughts about aspects of Trump’s life and worldview that may help connect some dots:

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump tour disaster areas of Puerto Rico, Oct. 3, 2017. (Screenshot from Whitehouse.gov)

First, when it comes to sports, Trump adores a big fat spectacle. He would have loved the Coliseum of ancient Rome. Can’t you just see him ruling over the games? Lions versus Christians or maybe one of the re-creations of a great Roman naval victory when they flooded the bottom of the arena with water and set ships ablaze, slaves giving up their lives for show business and special effects?

And can’t you also picture him with his jaw jutting out, tangerine head crowned with tilted laurels and body clad in disheveled toga, turning his thumb down with a leer in his eye as he sends the defeated to their deaths?

But he confuses his love of glitz with knowledge of the game. As he does when it comes to virtually every subject, the President wrongly fancies himself an expert on professional athletics. His Trump Tower office is filled with sports memorabilia and a quick Google search shows Trump posing over the years with a panoply of pro stars, many of them African-American. There he is with Muhammad Ali. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. George Foreman. Jim Brown. Shaquille O’Neal.

In 1992, when heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson was found guilty of rape, Trump jumped to his defense, called the conviction “a travesty” and said it wasn’t his pal’s fault — “I’ve seen women going around touching him… He walks in a room and the women start grabbing him…” Sounds like Trump’s own Access Hollywood tape, doesn’t it?

Twenty-four years later, as he campaigned for president, Trump was still touting his friendship at a rally in Indiana, the very state where Tyson was arrested: “Mike Tyson endorsed me. I love it. He sent out a tweet. Mike. Iron Mike. You know, all the tough guys endorse me. I like that, OK?”

A Tough Guy

Trump thinks he’s a tough guy, too. Witness his remarks about pro football rules when he spoke at that Sept. 22 rally for Alabama U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, who last week lost a runoff primary to crazed Judge Roy Moore:

“Today if you hit too hard — 15 yards! Throw him out of the game! They had that last week. I watched for a couple of minutes. Two guys, just really, beautiful tackle. Boom, 15 yards! The referee gets on television — his wife is sitting at home, she’s so proud of him. They’re ruining the game! They’re ruining the game.”

This mindless egging on of violence at the risk of mortal harm comes in the wake of the latest overwhelming evidence of National Football League (NFL) players who have had their lives and careers destroyed by the severe brain damage of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

That Trump seems to think that he has a masterly knowledge of pro football and how it should be run and played goes back to his disastrous involvement in the mid-1980s with the United States Football League (USFL), an upstart challenger to the NFL that might have had a chance at success had it not been for Trump’s bumbling. Apparently, he was trying to leverage his ownership of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals into an NFL franchise that the league wasn’t about to give him.

So when it comes to this whole controversy about players taking a knee during “The Star Spangled Banner,” it would be a mistake to rule out Trump’s ongoing grudge against the NFL as a factor in his attacks. Nor should it come as a surprise that he has chosen to exploit a basic and essentially civil protest against police who kill unarmed civilians and explode it into an attack on God and country, roiling his base and once more chiseling into America’s racial divide.

In the words of Charlie Pierce over at Sports Illustrated, Trump “never saw a crack in the pavement he couldn’t turn into an earthquake.”

To sum up: Evidence suggests that Donald Trump fawns over a player with slobbering fan fever as long as you’re an athlete who stays in line, shows appreciation and entertains the boss. But step out of line, express an opinion in conflict with his own and suddenly it’s thumbs down from the emperor. Just like that, you’re a security threat to the nation.

And to rub it in further, Trump denounced NFL owners who have been supportive of their team protests as “afraid of their players, if you want to know the truth, and I think it’s disgraceful.”

That’s not a referee’s whistle you’re hearing, it’s the shrill dog whistle of bigotry and white paranoia, of a hypocrisy that decries dissent from racial minorities while defending the rights of neo-Nazis and those who speak out against anyone who finds statues and monuments celebrating the secessionist South to be offensive.

Bread and Circuses

And the hits just keep on coming. Trump continues to find, as the great Jelani Cobb recently wrote at The New Yorker, novel ways “to diminish the nation he purportedly leads… [he] is a small man with a fetish for the symbols of democracy and a bottomless hostility for the actual practice of it.”

When it comes to the catastrophe in Puerto Rico, at first it seemed — as was true of Roman emperors at the Coliseum distracting the masses with bread and circuses — that the President was again using the NFL controversy, this time to divert attention from the slowness of hurricane emergency relief.

But once San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz declared, “We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy,” Trump went on the attack once more, declaring that she had “poor leadership ability” and is being manipulated by Democrats. Puerto Rican officials, Trump tweeted, “want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”

Damn, there goes that dog whistle again. People of color raising their voices in protest make our loutish emperor mad and antsy. He puts the petty in petty tyrant. Time to call foul and throw him out of the game.

Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWinship. [This article first appeared at http://billmoyers.com/story/calling-foul-donald-trump-rhetoric/]

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21 comments for “Why Trump Slaps Down Minority Protests

  1. majorosmosis
    October 4, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Great op-ed! One small point, though. Please don’t refer to Puerto Rico as a “Commonwealth.” Virginia, for example, is truly a Commonwealth. On paper, Puerto Rico is known as a “Free Associated State”…but in reality, it is a COLONY. If you don’t agree, just ask the United Nations. Colonialism is alive and well in the 21st Century in the United States of America.

    • mike k
      October 4, 2017 at 11:13 am

      Thanks for your comment. Prior to recent events, I really had no idea what the US relationship to Puerto Rico was. That it turns out to be a master/slave relationship somehow does not surprise me.

    • Brad Owen
      October 4, 2017 at 1:32 pm

      It was my understanding that P.R. is a U.S. territory with the option of voting to become the 51st state or voting to become a Sovereign Nation. Is this not correct? This is an issue that is colored by what happened to USA after FDRs death (ie. coup by Synarchist Oligarchy assets).

    • Guest
      October 5, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      Isn’t a colony supposed to be a net benefit to the colonialist power? What exactly does PR offer?

    • Anon
      October 7, 2017 at 6:08 am

      I think you mean parasitism is alive and well, etc.

      Let us give PR its freedom then listen to the cries of terror as the chains of “colonialism” are removed.

      • Britton
        October 8, 2017 at 3:36 am

        lolol you do realize they have themselves to blame for their debt, their status with america makes it possible for their citizens to leave the country to the usa. Ill leave a quote from an investment article abou peurto ricos debt from the week.com dated march 2017
        How much spending could be cut?
        A lot. Puerto Rico has made some bad financial decisions. The island’s government-owned power utility, for example, has piled up $9 billion in debt by providing free electricity to all municipalities and government-owned enterprises — although not to Puerto Rico’s citizens. Because municipalities haven’t faced electricity bills, they have happily invested in energy-intensive, economically dubious projects. Authorities in the city of Aguadilla operate a water park billed as the biggest in the Caribbean, a minor league baseball stadium illuminated by floodlights, and — believe it or not — an ice-skating rink. “Imagine how much it costs to have an ice-skating rink in the tropics,” says economist Sergio Marxuach.

  2. mike k
    October 4, 2017 at 11:05 am

    Thanks for calling out this white racist fascist oligarch for what he so obviously is. The call for his impeachment has nothing to do with partisan politics, although some would like to see it as only that. The real desire for his removal from office stems from the need to rid ourselves of an evil leader. The real question is how much of Trump’s garbage are the American people willing to swallow, before they say ENOUGH!

    • Britton
      October 8, 2017 at 3:44 am

      Mike K, can you please supply evidence to this charge of racism? I’ve heard and seen what we all have, he says un PC things but i dont see that as proof. How man white protesters has he mocked or criticized? Women, men, he doesnt care. He is a disgusting human, but actions speak louder than words. He campaigned like hitler but his policies and actions…not so much. I hate the two party system, we have trump because he is the president the American people deserve. This is what happens when you a majoritty of the population is asleep at the wheel, they can point out every Kardasian but not 3 senators or the vice president. He is he ugly reflection in a dirty mirror. How many have died of starvation in Yemen from the Saudi Campaign the USA has supported during Obamas presidency? Or the Bush/Obama 15 year war topped off with bailouts? Why do they tout Obama as a great president, Gitmo Bay is still open? Partisan is a blind eye when your guy is in office

  3. October 4, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Great article, Michael Winship, and I hope,your recovery is going well. It is time to get rid of the sick emperor, Trump, the American Commodus. Any hope of MAGA by now should be teeming with maggots. Trump does not even have the mental development of a 2-year-old!

  4. Nop
    October 4, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Wow, that was a steaming pile of unsupported drivel. Far below the quality I have come to expect from Consortium. Disappointing. I hope this is not a trend.

    • hatedbyu
      October 4, 2017 at 5:42 pm

      i asked the same question.

    • mike k
      October 4, 2017 at 6:17 pm

      We are all praying for your approval.

    • Bart in VA
      October 4, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      In my long ago computer programming days, a no-op was a command that did nothing, perhaps a kind of place saver.

  5. laurie de marco
    October 5, 2017 at 4:28 am

    why would you want to get rid of trump and have him replaced with a sinister vice president that is more stealth in deployment of the ruling class agenda which is to maintain the pyramid of priverlage for the ruling classes politions do not create the agenda they are there to implement the agenda elections are an illusion for the sheep like masses that believe in the hoax of democracy and unaware of their enslavement those that control the arsenal control the people always has been also when the romans had the christians being chased by lions at the collesium this event was minor compared to what the christians did to the non christians once they took over rome and the collesium research your history better remember the white house is modern rome and the vice president is hard core christian think about it…

    • Anon
      October 7, 2017 at 6:04 am

      He is a despicable Christian. An evil, evil, evil tyrant. A big blue meanie.

  6. Christian Yates
    October 5, 2017 at 7:26 am

    “A post-surgical convalescence has held me captive to the 24/7 news cycle more than usual so I’ve been far too immersed than is healthy in the concurrent sagas of Donald Trump versus the National Football League and the United States Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.”

    That was where you went wrong. Trump is an actor, a wrestlmania villian, a talk show guest and the media loves him. And apparently a lot of people like to watch him and gasp. The media and trump want you to think he’s a mad king or emporer. Distract you with the left hand while the right hand takes your watch. Where’s the antiwar movement? Too busy watching TV and comparing themselves (good) to trump (bad).

  7. Jake G
    October 5, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Or he simply knows, just like anyone else who is looking at this with disgust, that they are blatant hypocrites.

  8. JR
    October 6, 2017 at 1:00 am

    Trump is a brutish thug with the mentality of a pig. He thinks the world is paying attention to him and some are – but the rest of us are laughing at this moron and his ridiculous Tweets. His performance as Commander in Chief is a travesty. Frankly, I can’t wait to be rid of this racist fascist, the sooner the better. His treatment of minorities, flood victims, hurricane victims will be remembered by everyone.

    • Anon
      October 7, 2017 at 6:02 am

      Remembered as giving aid that is effective, adequate, and free of racism, fascism and Zoroastrianism.

  9. D
    October 7, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    PR provide’s the USA primarily with a tax haven… and some slave labor through it’s prison system (since it’s prisons are much like those in the USA).

  10. Britton
    October 8, 2017 at 3:31 am

    I source and refer to your(consortium) articles to many friends when discussing trustworthy news. However when it comes to assumptions about trump and race I have a hard time seeing proof. Ill keep it simple, he bashes EVERYONE who protest him or what he feels he represents Doesn’t care what sex, color or career you have, he treats everybody the same. id prefer an asshole whos transparent then a good liar that keeps my friends head in the sand. And actions speak louder than words, Paul Ryan is supposedly for limited government but the republicans spend as much if not more than dems and dont blink an eye when raising the debt ceiling. I didnt see the NFL drama as a minority protest, however millionaires that get to play a game for a living is a minority group

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