"I think the president believes it is his role to improve race relations." That was the line Marc Short, the White House's legislative affairs director, shared on NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday.
How's that working out?
The latest racial firestorm began on Friday night, when Donald Trump delivered a rambling speech in Alabama in which the president reflected on, of all things, sports. He noted, for example, that "they" are "ruining" the NFL by trying to reduce brain injuries. "You know, today, if you hit too hard, right, they hit too hard, 15 yards, throw him out of the game," Trump complained.
And if that were all he'd said, that would've merely been odd. But the president went much further:
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired, he's fired.' [...] Because that's a total disrespect of our heritage, that's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for, OK? Everything that we stand for.
"And I know we have freedoms and we have freedom of choice and many, many different freedoms. But you know what? It's still totally disrespectful. And, you know, when the NFL ratings are down massively, massively. Now, the number one reason happens to be that they like watching what's happening on, you know, with yours truly."
After suggesting that some Americans are so interested in him that they're watching less football, Trump added that fans should "leave the stadium" if they see players take a knee during the national anthem. "I guarantee things will stop, things will stop," he said. "Just pick up and leave, pick up and leave."
Apparently pleased with himself, the president announced via Twitter the next morning that the NBA's Golden State Warriors are no longer welcome at the White House, because Stephen Curry "hesitated" in response to an invitation.
And then he really got worked up. Trump complained that athletes should not be "allowed" to show "disrespect" towards the flag or the country, adding those who feel differently should be "fired." There were a series of related missives, culminating in the president calling football games "boring" and questioning the patriotism of the league.