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Bear in mind where Donald Trump first launched his verbal attack on the NFL players kneeling, or sitting, or otherwise protesting during the national anthem. The setting was a political rally in Alabama, the president backing U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, the incumbent who has trailed Roy Moore, a firebrand conservative, in the race for the Republican nomination.

What was the president doing when he told the crowd: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired’ ”? One explanation goes: He sought to mobilize his base, reassuring that he (and Strange) can be just as over the top.

Another points to Trump being Trump, divisiveness as his default mode, apparent in abundance since he announced his run for the presidency.

Whatever the part of the two explanations, Dee and Jimmy Haslam got it right in describing the president’s words as “misguided, uninformed and divisive.” In supporting their players, the owners of the Cleveland Browns understand the “peaceful, personal expression,” players using “their earned platform to inspire positive change. … ”

But just as journalists shouldn't interject their personal views into their responsibility to cover the news, so the NFL workplace shouldn't be used as a stage for players' political views.

Using the sports arena to disseminate political views brings little change. Instead, players who feel passionate about what is going on in the country should take meaningful action.

Participating in the national anthem shouldn't be viewed as a political issue.

Many fans and others may not like what the players have done. They may see spoiled millionaires showing too little appreciation. 

Colin Kaepernick set this chapter in motion last season, the anthem a vehicle for protesting against the treatment of blacks. He added his voice to those alarmed at unarmed blacks dying at the hands of police officers. Yet the cause goes deeper, as is evident in various measures of income, education, health care and housing.

This is worthy of protest, and in doing so, the players hardly have caused harm. They didn’t burn the flag, something the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed as a symbolic form of protest. 

Which is just what the president misses, or may be incapable of communicating. He might well have left the subject alone entirely, respecting the players’ right to speak. If he did choose to address the subject, the appropriate tact would be to use words to bring the country together, to recognize the problem and push us to do better holding to our promises, values and principles.

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