What is the meaning of these seemingly frivolous skirmishes with athletes and sports leagues? His true motivations aren’t clear, but his behavior does fit a pattern.
As Adam Serwer wrote here, there is a clear racial element to Trump’s pronouncements. When the NFL star Tom Brady, a white player, skipped his championship team’s White House visit, the president was silent. (Brady has described Trump as a “good friend,” and at one point displayed a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker.) When Warriors star Stephen Curry, a black man, announced his intention to do the same, the president called him out on Twitter and rescinded the team’s invitation. In calling for NFL owners to fire protesting players, the president encourages an overwhelmingly white ownership group to disemploy members of overwhelmingly black NFL players union. As Serwer wrote, Trump’s instant criticism of Curry and black NFL players stands in stark contrast to his infamous hesitation to condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
Nobody is forcing the president to morph into a sports radio commentator. It is merely the role that best suits the skills that come most naturally to the former game-show host. Consider the simple, uncontroversial fact that in his ninth month in office, the U.S. president has a clearer position on Stephen Curry’s White House clearance than on any single detail of health care or tax reform. Trump is so bored by the quotidian demands of his surprisingly “complicated”job, which requires guiding policy through a complex political process, that he uses his position to instead harass Americans on the internet. Judging by the attention his sports commentary received this weekend, one can assume that Trump’s shock-jock-in-chief routine will be a long-running show.