Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh delivered a surprising rebuke of Donald Trump on his Wednesday show, complaining about “the slippery slope” from the president’s ongoing attacks on NFL player protests of the national anthem.
“I don’t think that it is useful or helpful for any employee anywhere to be forced to do something because the government says they must,” Limbaugh said. “That scares the hell out of me.”
Limbaugh agreed with the president and others who think it’s wrong for athletes to take a knee during the national anthem. “Trump is continually tweeting — I know what he’s doing, and I understand why he’s doing it, and his motives are pure; don’t misunderstand,” he said.
But he said was worried about the potential for government overreach. “I’m really nervous if all that happens because the president makes it happen. He can make it happen by forcing the owners. But this is a slippery slope to me, and it hit me a while ago and crystallized last night.
“Trump is in the right, don’t misunderstand,” he said. “But no president should have dictatorial power over individual behavior.”
Limbaugh’s rant came in response to reports on Wednesday that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said players “should stand” for the National Anthem and that he was eager to move on from the controversy which has engulfed the league. Goodell, however, insisted that it was not a demand.
“There has been no policy change,” he told CNN.
Trump, however, declared victory on Twitter.
It is about time that Roger Goodell of the NFL is finally demanding that all players STAND for our great National Anthem-RESPECT OUR COUNTRY
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017
The ongoing pre-game protests by some NFL players has engulfed the national conversation for weeks. President Trump has repeatedly hammered players for kneeling, turning the matter into a divisive wedge issue.
With his large radio audience, Limbaugh has long been one of the most influential voices in GOP politics. Throughout the 2016 campaign and beyond, he has stood with Trump through some of the real estate magnate’s thorniest controversies.