ESPN host Stephen A. Smith on Monday said President Donald Trump is winning the debate over NFL players kneeling for the national anthem.
"In the end, what it really, really comes down to is the president has successfully hijacked this issue," Smith said on "First Take," explaining that the original purpose of the anthem protests - highlighting racial inequality and police brutality - has been lost.
"He's turned it into an issue about patriotism and beyond. He's catering to his base in the process," Smith said. "He is the one that's winning because he's turned this into something that the players didn't intend to. So they're going to have to find a different mechanism to make their voices heard, because Trump has won this round."
On "Outnumbered" today, Trish Regan agreed with Smith that Trump is winning on this issue because the NFL's ratings are down.
"Americans have been turning off football," she said.
Jessica Tarlov noted that Trump isn't just winning the court of public opinion, as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said any player who refuses to stand for the anthem will be benched for the game.
A big salute to Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, who will BENCH players who disrespect our Flag."Stand for Anthem or sit for game!"
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2017
"The NFL lets people who are domestic abusers play, steroid users, accused murderers, accused rapists," Tarlov said. "And this is the most offensive thing that happens, that they take a knee? Why don't we go after all of them? Why doesn't Jerry Jones care about that?"
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) agreed that the NFL should be tough on players who break the law, not only because it's the right thing to do, but because fans don't want to cheer for "bad people."
"But the flag is the same thing. It's harder to cheer for people who are going to disrespect our national symbol," DeSantis said. "You can have your political agenda. Find a different way to channel it rather than choosing to protest the flag. It just doesn't make sense."
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