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Stephen A. Smith Says Trump is Winning Big on NFL Protests: He’s Got The League ‘By the You Know What’

Stephen A. Smith is weighing in on the debate over the NFL protests in which players have been kneeling during the National Anthem to protest social injustice. And the ESPN commentator is going on the record — stating President Donald Trump knows he has the power to pull the strings in the league.

“Donald Trump has the NFL in the palm of his hands,” Smith said Tuesday on First Take. “He can do whatever he wants to them right now because of the positions they’ve taken or the positions they refuse to take, preceding the whole Colin Kaepernick thing.”

Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who began kneeling in 2016 to protest racism and police brutality, has received backlash from the president who feels the demonstrations by him and others are unpatriotic. Smith said the source of Trump’s influence in the football industry is the simple fact that so many of its leaders and fans have supported the president.

“The fact that he has a constituency — the man got over 62 million votes,” Smith pointed out. “You got a lot of folks out there who are patrons of the NFL product. A matter of fact, some of the NFL owners are his friends. And make no mistake about it, the constituency they cater to, the patrons that they cater to, a lot of them were Trump voters. He knows it. He took the position that he took.”

The president revoked an invite to the Philadelphia Eagles to appear at the White House, tweeting Tuesday that they shouldn’t be “escaping to locker rooms” as the national anthem plays. The remark references the NFL’s new rule that players may not kneel on the field during the anthem, but are allowed to stay in the locker rooms if they do not wish to remain standing.

Further discussing the issue, Smith said it serves as an indication of “the power of influence.”

“He has it, particularly over [the NFL], because he knows what they tried to do,” Smith said. “He knows what he wants to do. More importantly, he knows how to do it better than them, and he’s got them by the you know what, because they folded to him.”

Watch the clip above, via ESPN.

[Image via screengrab]

Follow Amy Russo on Twitter: @amymrusso

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