Donald Trump’s tweets over the weekend suggesting that “ ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen … go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” were noteworthy for their explicit bigotry if not their revelations about the president’s beliefs. “If Donald Trump has a theory of anything, it is a theory of American citizenship,” Jamelle Bouie wrote in the New York Times on Monday. “It’s simple. If you are white, then regardless of origin, you have a legitimate claim to American citizenship and everything that comes with it. If you are not, then you don’t.”
That attitude—and that specific language about vacating the country—felt unprecedented when directed at members of the U.S. House of Representatives. At the same time, it very closely echoes rhetoric Trump has used about black athletes. During his presidential campaign, Trump attacked Colin Kaepernick for protesting police brutality by declining to stand during the national anthem. “Maybe he should find a country that works better for him,” Trump said. As president, Trump extended that sentiment to all NFL players who don’t stand during the anthem, saying in 2018, “Maybe they shouldn’t be in the country.” He also rescinded a White House invitation to the Philadelphia Eagles after it became clear that most of the team’s players didn’t want to go, instead holding a football-free celebration in which he said, “We love our country, we respect our flag, and we always proudly stand for the national anthem.”
Trump’s recent talking points about a protesting white athlete sounded very different. In 2016, Megan Rapinoe followed Kaepernick’s lead in kneeling during the anthem. The following year, her U.S. teammate Becky Sauerbrunn, who is also white, joined Rapinoe in staying in the locker room during the playing of the anthem. Trump did not attack either woman at the time, though he did respond to Rapinoe last month when she appeared in a video saying, “I’m not going to the fucking White House.”
His message, via Twitter, was essentially that protesting is very bad. But Trump still invited Rapinoe and her teammates to the White House, and he never questioned her right to stay in the United States.
We haven’t yet … invited Megan or the team, but I am now inviting the TEAM, win or lose. Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team. Be proud of the Flag that you wear. The USA is doing GREAT!
In his New York Times column, Bouie also noted an odd but revelatory moment from a 2017 White House visit. That year, Trump praised an all-white contingent representing the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins as “incredible patriots.” Among the players who went to see Trump: six Canadians, two Swedes, a Russian, and a Finn. If the Penguins had featured any Norwegians, he presumably would’ve granted them citizenship on the spot.