Colin Kaepernick seeks to subpoena Trump in collusion case

A new poll also brings Trump bad news: Most Americans don't think NFL protests are unpatriotic

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published June 7, 2018 3:50PM (EDT)

Donald Trump; Colin Kaepernick (Getty/Spencer Platt/AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Donald Trump; Colin Kaepernick (Getty/Spencer Platt/AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

In his collusion case against the NFL and its team owners, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is seeking testimony by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

According to multiple reports, Kaepernick's lawyers have already made informal attempts to coordinate and schedule depositions and will likely seek to subpoena Trump. Several owners, as well as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, have already been deposed in the case. As Yahoo! Sports, which first reported the news, explained on Thursday:

The aim will be a dive into the administration’s political involvement with the NFL during Kaepernick’s free agency and the league’s handling of player protests, sources said. This after recent disclosures that multiple owners had direct talks with Trump about players kneeling during the national anthem. The content of those conversations between Trump and owners – as well as any forms of pressure directed at the league by the administration – are expected to shape the requests to force the testimony of Trump, Pence and other affiliated officials, sources said.

"It was reported that NFL owners don't want to pick him up because they don't want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump," the president said at a rally last year. "Do you believe that?"

Pence then left an October 49ers game after some players knelt during the National Anthem. He later said on Twitter that he would not "dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem."

Then late last month, NFL team owners announced a new policy requiring that players to stand during the National Anthem, or stay in the locker room.

Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the NFL, said the league had no comment on Kaepernick's suit.

A new poll by Quinnipiac University brought good news for both President Trump and the NFL players who have protested racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem on Wednesday.

The good news for the players is right at the top of the survey: 58 percent of American voters do not consider the protesters to be unpatriotic, compared to only 35 percent of American voters who do think it's unpatriotic. In addition, 53 percent of American voters believe that professional athletes should have the right to protest on either the playing field or court, with only 43 percent disagreeing.

While this would seem to augur poorly for Trump, it is worth noting that the president often does best when he is able to rile up his base. In that regard, the poll actually has good news for the Republican Party leader as well.

Seventy percent of Republican voters do regard the NFL player protesters as unpatriotic, with only 23 percent saying that this wasn't the case. Similarly, 81 percent of Republican voters said that professional athletes do not have the right to protest, while 53 percent of white voters regardless of party said that they do not have the right to protest. Only 16 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of white voters disagreed with these positions. By contrast, 82 percent of Democratic voters, 85 percent of African American voters and 67 percent of Hispanic voters said that players should have the right to protest (only 16 percent, 11 percent and 28 percent disagreed, respectively).

While Republican voters were the only group polled who said that kneeling during the national anthem was unpatriotic — every other partisan, gender, education, age and racial group said that it was patriotic except for non-college educated white voters, who were evenly split — this doesn't mean that the NFL's controversial new policy to deal with the players protests has backfired.

The Quinnipiac survey found that American voters support the NFL's new policy requiring players on the field to stand for the National Anthem, with players who wish to protest being allowed to do so by staying in their locker rooms. Fifty-one percent of American voters believe that the NFL is right in its new policy, while only 42 percent feel that they are wrong. Among independent voters 49 percent are supportive of the policy, while 44 percent think it's wrong.

Complicating matters, however, is the fact that 51 percent of American voters oppose fining NFL teams for allowing players on the field to not stand for the National Anthem. Among men, 47 percent support fining the players and 48 percent oppose it. Among women 54 percent oppose fining the measure and 40 percent support it.

"Voters are clearly torn on the National Anthem issue. They seem to be saying, ‘You can still love your country and kneel during its Anthem,’ but the NFL’s new ‘must stand’ mandate is fine with them, too. As for teams that defy the new rule, Americans say, ‘Don’t throw a flag on them,’" Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, explained in a statement.

One of the harshest recent criticisms of the NFL owners came from Deadspin editor David Roth, who in an editorial earlier this week argued that they had severely miscalculated as to who the president is and whether their attempted accommodation would even work.

"NFL owners are selfish; their unwillingness or inability to prioritize anything about their league over their own avarice is, much more than one rancid grandpa’s gummy slurs, the thing that most urgently threatens to kill the NFL," Roth wrote. "This makes it stranger that they whiffed so hard on what Trump is, and what he’s about. They thought he was selfish like them, but they were only right about the first part."

He added, "The owners still seem to believe that they can give Trump what he wants, but that’s not on the table. He wants more than they can give and no less than that. The owners, like the cultists and cynics who have fallen all over themselves to serve Trump, still seem not to know what they’ve invited in. They have misidentified the snake."

NFL’s racial divide

Salon talked with former NFL player Wade David and an attorney for professional athletes about the player protests.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Donald Trump Football Football Protests National Anthem Protests Nfl Nfl Player Protests Player Protests