ESPN announcer Stephen A. Smith on Monday said President Donald Trump has hijacked the national anthem issue.
His comments come the day after Vice President Mike Pence left Sunday's Indianapolis Colts-San Francisco 49ers game in California after several players kneeled for the national anthem. Trump later tweeted support for Pence, saying he asked him to leave the stadium if players kneeled, "disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and second lady Karen."
"In the end, what it really, really comes down to is the president has successfully hijacked this issue," said Smith on the ESPN podcast, "First Take."
"He's turned it into an issue about patriotism and beyond; he's catering to his base in the process, and the biggest thing he's doing is he's pulling it all off hiding behind these issues when, in my opinion, his real agenda is going after an NFL community that didn't let him in that 'good ole boys club.'"
Smith added: "He is the one that's winning because he's turned this into something that the players didn't intend to. So they're going to have to find a different mechanism to have their voices heard, because Trump has won this round."
Trump two weeks ago set his sights on the National Football League when he lashed out at athletes who protest before games. The response from players, coaches, and owners was swift as many protested in some form. Since then, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he would punish players for disrespecting the flag, and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said he wants the players to stand.
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