Actually, Trump is responding to the politicization of sports. The players, ESPN pundits and analysts, and the national press corps has politicized sports. They are the ones who started taking knees, covering the taking of knees heroically, and trying to examine the politics of it all.
The NFL, ESPN, and other media outlets already have internal data showing the protests are not popular. ESPN has internal data showing its politicization of sports is not popular.
So along comes President Trump to express a widely held sentiment and he amps up the rhetoric. The press and player reaction is to not only double down on the protests, but to accuse Trump of inserting politics into the situation — something everyone already knows the players and pundits did first.
And now what happens? Because of the way the argument has unfolded, you are either on the side of patriotism and Donald Trump or you are on the side of protestors who reject the flag. Some leftists are screaming that to not bend the knee is to side with Trump. Most Americans will not actually see it that way since they understand Trump did not start the politicization.
The reality is this — there is no way for the NFL or the left to win this. They either destroy football or they stop the protests. And if they stop the protests, Trump declares himself the winner. Neither side is going to back down and that only helps Donald J. Trump. Heck, Trump has been President for only eight months and he already has the left on its knees before him. Looks like he’s winning.