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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

President Trump has showed the NFL what happens when you cave to his culture war demands, taking on the Philadelphia Eagles even though none of the team's players kneeled during the National Anthem.

Why it matters: This president is willing to wage culture wars his predecessors wouldn't touch.

The tale of the tape:

  • September 2017: Trump seizes on kneeling as a political issue during the Alabama special Senate election. "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b*tch off the field right now. Out. He's fired. He's fired!'"
  • October 2017: NFL owners sense they're on the losing side of the equation, and urge each other and players in a secret meeting to crack down on the kneelers.
  • May 2018: The NFL caves to Trump, announcing penalties for any team whose players kneel or protest on the field during the National Anthem.
  • Yesterday: Trump turns his ire on the Eagles. "They disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart," he said in a statement.
  • Today: Trump uses the ceremony originally scheduled for the Eagles to play the National Anthem and "God Bless America," and the White House sends out a statement accusing the team of abandoning its fans.

P.S. As the NYTimes' Ken Belson reminds, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie warned the other owners at the time about the futility of appeasing Trump:

  • "Don’t pander to the president, he said, by clamping down on the players. Work with the players and tune out the noise. The president will do what he does regardless. 'We’ve got to be careful not to be baited by Trump or whomever else,' he said at the meeting. 'We have to find a way to not be divided and not get baited.'"

The bottom line: The NFL is now learning — with Lurie's Eagles bearing the brunt of the blow, despite his warnings —  that Trump has no interest in gracefully accepting surrender in the culture wars.

Go deeper

Biden to sign 15 executive actions on Day One

President-elect Joe Biden. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to sign 15 executive actions upon taking office Wednesday, immediately reversing key Trump administration policies.

Why it matters: The 15 actions — aimed at issues like climate change and immigration — mark more drastic immediate steps compared with the two day-one actions from Biden's four predecessors combined, according to incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Off the Rails

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Elijah Nouvelage, Alex Wong/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence. Trump believes the vice president can solve all his problems by simply refusing to certify the Electoral College results. It's a simple test of loyalty: Trump or the U.S. Constitution.

"The end is coming, Donald."

The male voice in the TV ad boomed through the White House residence during "Fox & Friends" commercial breaks. Over and over and over. "The end is coming, Donald. ... On Jan. 6, Mike Pence will put the nail in your political coffin."

Big Tech's post-riot reckoning

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The Capitol insurrection means the anti-tech talk in Washington is more likely to lead to action, since it's ever clearer that the attack was planned, at least in part, on social media.

Why it matters: The big platforms may have hoped they'd move to D.C.'s back burner, with the Hill focused on the Biden agenda and the pandemic out of control. But now, there'll be no escaping harsh scrutiny.