Bryant Gumbel would like to thank you, Donald Trump — though perhaps not for the reason you might want to be thanked.
Gumbel devoted his closing commentary on Tuesday’s “Real Sports” to Trump, who spent a good portion of the weekend criticizing NFL players for their protests during the national anthem, giving him credit for “energizing the social conscience of the modern American athlete.”
“Finally tonight, a quick thanks to the current occupant of the White House for energizing the social conscience of the modern American athlete,” Gumbel began. “That occupant’s weekend series of racist, churlish and childish comments drew a variety of stunning rebukes and actions, which suggests jocks may finally be realizing that apathy won’t cut it anymore. That in conjunction with their fame, they have important civic roles to play — especially now.”
Gumbel went on to name-check the litany of athletes who’ve highlighted social issues in the past.
“Those of us who have long focused on the intersection of sports and society have often wondered what it would take for today’s athletes to forsake the path of least resistance and actually stand for something and now we know,” Gumbel said. “Many suddenly seem not just willing, but also eager to follow in the giant footsteps of Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, Billie Jean King, Roberto Clemente, Arthur Ashe and many others who courageously used their athletic platforms to challenge authority in the pursuit of justice.”
Gumbel concluded his commentary by name-checking another champion of social issues, Bob Dylan.
“Back in their day, Bob Dylan famously said: ‘The times they are a changin’,’ and that’s still true today… as is the sad reality that certain things haven’t really changed at all,” Gumbel added.
Trump took aim at former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other athletes who have recently protested.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag,” Trump said during a rally in Alabama on Friday, “to say ‘get that son of a b–h off the field’ right now, out! He’s fired?'”
Trump reinforced the sentiment in a series of tweets over the weekend.
The football community has responded prominently to Trump’s criticisms. During this week’s edition of “Monday Night Football,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joined his team as they locked arms and took a knee ahead of the national anthem before Monday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, capping a weekend when anthem protests took center stage with one of the more powerful gestures of Week 3 of the NFL season.
Watch Gumbel’s backhanded compliment to Trump in the video.