Veteran NBC sportscaster Bob Costas Monday slammed President Donald Trump as being "tone deaf" on the matter of race after the president said during a campaign rally in Alabama that football players who kneel in protest of police brutality should be fired.
To give Trump the "extreme benefit of the doubt," Costas told CNN's "New Day," one would say that the president is "insensitive to the racial implications to make comments like this at a rally in Alabama. All right? He likes cheap applause lines . . . do you want a president of the United States who is so tone deaf to the racial implications of this?"
Last Friday, during a campaign rally for interim Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama, Trump said NFL owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem. He further doubled down on the comments over the weekend.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b**** off the field right now. He is fired. He's fired,'" Trump said.
"When you call people "sons of b*****s" across the board, that offends everybody, white and black," Costas said. "They've stood shoulder to shoulder on those fields, in those locker rooms. What kind of a statement is that to make? And I don't think it's irrelevant that clearly the president had more passion and conviction for those remarks than he did when he finally got around, after equivocating, to distancing himself to some extent from white nationalists and neo-Nazis. He clearly had more fervor for this than for that."
On Sunday, teams and their owners stood, armed locked in protest despite Trump's words, with the entire Pittsburgh Steelers team, aside from offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, staying off the field as the national anthem was played.
Costas said Monday Trump had galvanized the NFL in protest against him, and that a small movement to protest issues of race in the United States has become a universal, galvanizing reaction to President Donald Trump's "insulting remarks" toward initial protester Colin Kaepernick.
"You have not heard a single person within the NFL raise a voice in support of what Trump said, Costas told the program.
Trump's words, Costas said, play in "certain quarters" by stirring resentment.
"That's actually a business plan in certain quarters of the internet or cable television," Costas said, "It's a business plan and it's the way President Trump, for better or worse, approached his campaign and approaches his presidency."
Trump also tweeted that the issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race, but rather with respect for the United States, its flag and national anthem.
"Seventy percent of the players in the NFL, roughly, are African-American," Costas said. "Virtually every player who knelt in the initial stages of this was black, and the initial impetus from it or for it came from Colin Kaepernick and it was about police brutality and mistreatment of African-Americans. You can't separate those two things."
Costas, though, said he does not think Kaepernick will comment on the controversy, as he has been quiet for a long time.
The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Costas continued, has donated and raised millions for worthy causes, and he's involved in the community, but he was an "imperfect messenger."
Costas also said he does not think Trump's call for a boycott will hurt the NFC's ratings.
"It increases interest," Costas said. "Yesterday every telecast including Sunday night football on NBC showed the national anthem . . . now people want to see the anthem. They're interested in it. How long it lasts, we'll have to wait and see."
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