The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Gov. Rauner Sides With Trump on NFL Protests, Calling Them 'Disrespectful'

By aaroncynic in News on Sep 25, 2017 4:10PM

Governor Bruce Rauner outside the Director's Lawn at the Illinois State Fair in August 2016. Photo by Aaron Cynic

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner weighed in on the hot button issue of professional athletes protesting police brutality and racism during the national anthem Sunday, after President Donald Trump created a firestorm by tweeting furiously about the issue over the weekend.

In an effort to seemingly whip up the right wing and others into a fever of nationalism, and make the issue about himself, Trump told attendees at a rally in Alabama on Friday:

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

Trump then spent the weekend tweeting about the issue, and followed up by tweeting four times about it Monday morning.

Despite usually remaining silent or issuing milquetoast statements on controversial issues, particularly when they involve Trump, Rauner—who is a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the majority of whom chose to remain off the field during the anthem on Sunday—called the protests “disrespectful.”

“I strongly disagree with those who disrespect our flag and our anthem,” Rauner said via a spokesperson to Politico on Sunday. “To me they are disrespecting the foundations of our country, the veterans who risked their lives for our democracy, and the men and women who fight every day and make the ultimate sacrifice to defend our liberties.”

He went on to say however, that he wouldn’t condone a boycott of NFL teams.

“I personally cannot and will not condone such behavior. That said, our country is great because it guarantees freedom of expression, so people can choose to be disrespectful.”

On Sunday, the Chicago Bears chose to lock their arms together during the anthem, while all except one player for the Steelers remained in the locker room.

Prior to 2009, NFL players were not required to be on the field during the playing of the national anthem.

It should go without saying that players taking a knee during the national anthem at NFL games, most famously Colin Kaepernick, began as a statement protesting police brutality and racism.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media last year. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Chicagoist reached out to several of Rauner’s potential Democratic challengers and other Illinois politicians for comment and will update this story when we hear back. At least one, Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar, expressed solidarity with those choosing to take a knee.

Illinois State Rep. Christian Mitchell also criticized Trump, tweeting that he should consider focusing on more pressing matters.

Update: 12:45 p.m.

State Rep. and gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss said that by embracing Trump's condemnation, Rauner is joining "his fellow inexperienced billionaire in misleading the public about the purpose of these protests."

“Our country was founded on relentlessly pursuing liberty, fighting injustice, and doing our part to build a more perfect union," said Biss in a statement emailed to Chicagoist. "So let’s be clear—protests at NFL games this weekend and over the past year are responding to police brutality and institutional racism, and there isn’t anything more fundamentally American than that. We should all be taking a knee...As a father, husband, state senator, and candidate for governor, I know that it is my responsibility to be part of the solution—especially as Rauner and Trump have continued to be part of the problem."

Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar also responded in a statement over Twitter, saying that by changing the frame of the NFL protests, both Trump and Rauner "fail to understand and express empathy for the experiences of the marginalized in the United States of America."