- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2017

Radio host Rush Limbaugh — also an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan — has a message for President Trump after a weekend of national-anthem protests in the NFL: owners are “scared to death.”

Dozens of pro football players — at least some in every game Sunday — refused to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” in reaction to Mr. Trump’s recent statement that protesters should be fired.

Mr. Limbaugh told millions of listeners that conservatives should cheer because the decision by players to politicize the sport is backfiring.

“The left is attempting to publicly damage, take hold, whatever, of the NFL,” Mr. Limbaugh said. “And people who are not political — and there are a lot of those in this country, more than you would think — are seeing it. And they don’t like it, and now there’s a president speaking out against it. In public, it is Democrats who are now showing up to be the party supporting actions against the flag. The Democrats are being seen as the party that encourages protest against the anthem and the country itself. I’m telling you, sports media guys and gals, there’s no way Donald Trump loses this, the way you’ve got it going.”

Mr. Limbaugh also acknowledged during the broadcast that Sunday’s protests prompted him to actively avoid a Steelers game for the first time in over four decades.

“I was personally saddened,” he said. “I did not watch the National Football League yesterday, and it was the first time in 45 years that I made an active decision not to watch, including my team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

SEE ALSO: Alejandro Villanueva’s Steelers jersey sales soar after former Ranger rejects flag protests

Ironically, the Steelers were the one team in the league to have nobody kneel. Coach Mike Tomlin, in order to avoid divisiveness, kept the team back in the locker room during the anthem.

However, offensive-lineman Alejandro Villanueva, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy and was decorated for his valor in Afghanistan, chose to walk out to the tunnel entrance and stand at attention with his hand over his heart — a move that quickly won him social-media accolades but caused more confusion for the team Monday.

“It was not a decision made in anger. It was genuine sadness,” Mr. Limbaugh said about his personal Sunday NFL boycott. “I realized that I can no longer look at this game and watch this game and study this game and pretend, you know, fantasize, everything a fan does. This whole thing has removed for me the ingredients that are in the recipe that make up a fan. The mystique is gone,” Mr. Limbaugh said.

Sunday’s political spectacles were an extension of a movement that started during the 2016 season with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The player/activist refused to stand during the national anthem as a way of protesting police brutality.

“The owners, as I discussed earlier, are scared to death, folks,” Mr. Limbaugh said. “They’ve got to come down on the side of their employees or their customers. They are trying to find this middle ground and they’re doing that with liberal political language like, ‘We’re for unity and solidarity,’ and it doesn’t fly because this isn’t unity. Nobody’s being unified. The divisiveness is happening on Sundays.”

The radio host also used clips of booing fans, along with sagging television ratings, to buttress his point.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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