Former casino mogul Donald Trump gambling on winning the argument over ‘taking a knee’

  • War of words between president and NFL players continues
  • Game as a whole caught in the crossfire how will Trump’s approval rating be affected?
  • Trump betting he has popular opinion on his side

President Trump has continued his feud with protesting NFL players in a series of Tweets escalating his initial complaint about protests during the national anthem before games.

Using his social media platform to reach out to his followers, Trump has called for players who protest the anthem to be fired, and urged fans to boycott games where players choose to protest.

This backlash against the NFL itself could have significant consequences for both the president, but also the NFL.

Protests against police shootings pick up momentum

NFL players, particularly African American players, have been using the anthem to protest against perceived police brutality against minorities in the United States.

The first player to opt out of the anthem in protest was Colin Kaepernick, who opted for the now-iconic kneeling pose “out of respect for military veterans”.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people, and people of color,” said Kaepernick at the time.

Other players have joined the protest since, including other African American players and those who feel solidarity with their cause.

However, the protests have been met with a mixed reaction, with many finding it an ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘disrespectful’ act and beyond the scope of the sport to be making overtly political statements.

In recent weeks, the protests have gathered worldwide support and media attention – and have become more widespread among players – after President Trump joined the debate and called out the players involved.

Since then, the battle between NFL players and the White House has escalated significantly, with some suggesting it could have major financial implications.

President throws spotlight on protests

Social media analysts at 4C Insights found that the president Tweeted 21 times about the NFL protests this weekend – despite an ongoing foreign crisis in North Korea, a national disaster ongoing after two hurricane strikes, and US citizens menaced by a third hurricane in Puerto Rico all perhaps demanding more urgent attention.

This has caused his approval rating to fall by 13% on social media, while boosting the profile of the #TakeTheKnee hashtag by an almost unthinkable 78479% in one day.

While online support for the player’s message has grown, there is a section of the president’s fanbase who are in agreement with the former casino owner. They feel the protests are disrespectful – and may well follow the president’s calls for a boycott of NFL games where players opt to protests, unless the teams opt to fire those players.

Trump’s gamble

The NFL is the most lucrative sports industry in the world, Forbes reported last year.

The average top flight team is worth $2.34 billion, and teams often generate $700 million or more in revenue annually.

The majority of this income comes from two sources: seat sales and sponsorship deals.

However, a boycott of NFL games would harm all associated industries.

Attacking the NFL is a dangerous gamble by the president, with potentially big economic consequences for the sport, but also a drop in approval ratings for Trump if he loses the hearts and minds of the public on the matter.

Betting on protests

While there are obvious concerns that a backlash against the NFL could affect the whole sport, others are taking it in their stride.

The president suggested on Twitter recently that NFL ratings are down, but in fact they have risen: probably due to people tuning in to see which players will protest.

While some may turn off in counter-protest after the anthem, others will stay and watch the game, who may not otherwise have bothered.

In fact, the Dallas Observer went so far as to offer lighthearted betting odds on which of the Dallas Cowboys (if any) would ‘take a knee’ during Monday’s game. They ran the “outspoken” Dez Bryant at a +250 chance, while Ezekiel Elliott’s sole contribution had an estimated +2500 chance – and a .5 over/under line was set for the team.

Of course, the publication took no wagers for these odds – but don’t be surprised if bookmakers catch on and offer the political sideline with their standard sports options in the future!

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