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Politics Roundup: Trump's Call To Fire NFL Players Protesting During National Anthem


It seems as though we say this every week these days, but it's true. It's been another wild week in American politics. President Trump has picked a fight with the country's most watched sports league - the NFL - and one of the most popular players in the NBA. And the racial undertones are hard to miss.

All this while Senate Republicans are scrambling to fulfill Trump's goal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. We asked NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith to help us sort through all of this. Tam, thanks so much for joining us.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Glad to be with you.

MARTIN: So the president's comments about the NFL came last night during a rally for Senate candidate Luther Strange in Alabama. What exactly did he say?

KEITH: So this came in the midst of sort of this long winding speech - some on script, some seemingly very far off script. And at this point, he was talking about what he saw as the NFL's problems. One problem he sees is those rules aimed at preventing concussions and other severe brain disease suffered by some football players. And then this...


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You know what's hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television, and you see those people taking the knee when they're playing our great national anthem.

KEITH: People like yourselves, those people. Those people are NFL players, mostly black but also white, who were taking a knee or raising a fist in protest during the national anthem played before games. You know, in a statement on Twitter this afternoon, President Trump weighed in on this again. He said that they are disrespecting the flag or the country. They should stand for the national anthem. If not, quote, "you're fired; find something else to do." The NFL Players Association has responded essentially saying, don't tell players to just shut up and play.

MARTIN: And then this morning, the president tweeted about Steph Curry of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, basically uninviting him to the White House. Now what's going on there?

KEITH: There was a Fox News report about Curry's reluctance to attend the ceremony at the White House honoring the team. And then a few minutes later, the president sent out this tweet - going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore, invitation is withdrawn, exclamation point.

This, of course, has prompted a flood of responses, including from legend LeBron James, who tweeted, you bum. Steph Curry already said he ain't going, therefore, no invite. Going to the White House was a great honor until you showed up, exclamation point. That has been retweeted more than 300,000 times.

MARTIN: Wow. So there was a lot we could talk about there. But let's go back to the kind of politics that presidents usually talk about, which is health care. I do want to mention we will have far more about this very important topic throughout this hour.

But Senator John McCain of Arizona says that he will not vote for the latest Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare. How has the president reacted to that?

KEITH: Kind of the way you'd expect. He is not happy with John McCain. He says that he's letting Arizona down. But the president and other Republicans are not done pushing for this. McCain's vote is critical. But they still are putting pressure on other Senate Republicans, trying to get the votes that they need to pass what's known as the Graham-Cassidy bill.

One vote that is definitely outstanding and a lot of people have eyes on is Susan Collins of Maine. She says she's leaning against it. And she's going on a couple of Sunday morning TV talk shows tomorrow and will likely be asked about it.

MARTIN: That is NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Tam, thank you.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.