Kaepernick has 'etched a place in history' with NFL protest


MEGAN THOMPSON, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: For more about this weekend's intersection of sports and politics, I'm joined from Washington by NPR contributor, "Washington Post" sports columnist, and University of Maryland professor, Kevin Blackistone.

So, I first wanted to start out by asking you about President Trump's motivations. I mean, in your view, why do you think he decided to weigh in to this? Weighed into this?

Well, across the cynic in me suggests that he did so to divert our attention from serious things like what's going on with North Korea, what's going on with climate change, what's going on with the health care bill. But on the other side of it, I also think he just interjected himself into this debate simply because it was in front of his base in Alabama and he thought he could get away with it.

THOMPSON: It's rare to hear from NFL owners, especially when it comes to hot button political topics. But we are hearing from many of them and they are by and large agreeing with the players. How do you think that that's going to affect this national conversation?

BLACKISTONE: Well, I think it gives it imprimatur to go forward, right? Because when we stared this football season, the conversation was around a few players who are dropping to a knee in support of Colin Kaepernick and I don't think that the owners, certainly the commissioner did not, the NBA commissioner Adam Silver did not, the Golden State Warriors did not appreciate the language and the intonation from President Trump about the protests that are going on that started over a year ago by Colin Kaepernick.

THOMPSON: Talking about Colin Kaepernick, I mean, as you said, this all started with him. How do you think all of this is going to affect him both short term and long term?

BLACKISTONE: Well, I think, long term, he's etched a place in history. In the short term, what does it do for his career, if all of the owners are coming out in support of this, the commissioner has come out and supported this, the fact that he just got an award from the NFLPA, the players union, for humanitarian and community work that he's done, I think makes it much easier for him to get back into the league and makes the argument that he is somehow a pariah, extremely specious.

THOMPSON: Last week, it was revealed that former player Aaron Hernandez, who was only 27 years old when he committed suicide while in prison for —


THOMPSON: — murder. It was revealed that he had severe CTE, the degenerative brain disease. And in commons on Friday, President Trump basically encouraged hard hits, saying that rules preventing them were ruining the game.

I wanted to ask you, I mean, when are the league and football fans on that issue?

BLACKISTONE: Well, I think it's become much harder for many of us who are football fans to watch football, be it professional, be it semi-professional, which is college football, even high school and Little League Games, simply because we know that what we're watching could result in some serious brain damage to the participants. So, it's a difficult situation.

But what President Trump had to say about it was uninformed and need not be said. And the fact of the matter is, this is a huge problem and it's a medical problem and it really needs to be addressed.

THOMPSON: Kevin Blackistone, thank you very much for joining us.


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