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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

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.

5 hours ago - World

Zelensky questions U.S. warnings of "imminent" invasion in Biden call

Biden and Zelensky at the White House last October. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a back-and-forth in their call this evening about just how "imminent" the threat of a Russian invasion might be, according to three sources briefed on the call.

Why it matters: Biden has said previously that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin will probably "move in" to Ukraine, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday afternoon that "an invasion could come at any time."