OK, please stop falling for Donald Trump's "mind games" with the NFL

Just so you know, I'm taking credit for the Philadelphia Eagles doing the right thing by telling Donald Trump to find another group of suckers to come to the White House for a photo op.

Three months ago, I wrote this for CNN.com . . .

Whatever the case, no professional or amateur sports team should accept a trip to the White House if its key people have huge issues with the person who works in the West Wing. Better yet, most sports leagues should suspend this practice, made popular by Ronald Reagan during the 1980s, until a new administration comes along.

There's just too much drama surrounding the 45th president -- especially when it comes to sports. Except for maybe NASCAR, whose significant tracks are smack in the middle of Trump country, he's a polarizing figure to the athletic community.

So the Eagles listened to me. The same went for LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

During an off-day for the NBA Finals, those basketball superstars told reporters Tuesday afternoon something like the White House should lose their numbers if their current team wins the NBA world championship.

This all goes back to yours truly.

OK, maybe not, but consider this: On Monday, the day before the Eagles were slated to shake hands awkwardly with the president while forcing smiles before the cameras, they said, "Can't do it, dude." I'm not talking about one, 12 or even 20-something Eagles saying they wouldn't go anywhere near Pennsylvania Avenue to join Trump in celebrating their Super Bowl victory last February over the New England Patriots. I'm talking about virtually the entire team.

Even though Eagles players haven't joined many of their peers by kneeling or sitting during the national anthem to protest social injustice and police brutality, they don't like Trump's mind games (see below) against those who do. They don't like Trump calling the protesters "SOB's." They don't like Trump, period. They've shown as much by refusing this week to breathe anywhere within the length of a football field of the guy.

Good.

Now listen to me.

ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?

Stop saying Trump doesn't get it. When it comes to these mostly African-American players deciding to follow what Colin Kaepernick began two seasons ago by exercising their First Amendment right to protest however they wish, the Commander-In-Mischief gets it. Oh, Trump gets it, alright, and he also gets exactly what they're protesting, but you aren't paying attention. So you keep falling for the old "football in the tailpipe" trick.

What's that trick, you say? It's believing Trump is sincere when he shouts or tweets with authority that up is down, red is green and a bunch of NFL players are sitting, kneeling and boycotting during "The Star-Spangled Banner," because they hate the flag, the troops . . . anything red, white and blue.

Yeah, whatever. Not even Trump believes that. According to the Wall Street Journal, a deposition by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says he was told by Trump that blasting NFL players by calling them SOB's is part of his political strategy. More specifically, the deposition says Trump told Jones that the national anthem controversy is "a very winning, strong issue for me. Tell everybody, you can't win this one. This one lifts me."

It's a Trump publicity stunt. When the president and his White House folks start their "I'm not stupid. YOU'RE stupid" routine by saying it really was the Eagles pulling a publicity stunt after less than 10 of their people (mainly coaches and trainers) agreed to go to the White House, well, you get the picture.

If you don't, you must be an NFL owner.

Those folks are afraid of Trump, especially since many supported him with big bucks, which is why they approved a crazy rule last month in Atlanta during their spring meeting. Now a player can choose to remain in his locker room before games this season, but if he decides to take the field for the national anthem, he must be "respectful" or subject his team and his himself to a possible fine.

The owners didn't vote on the rule. They sort of agreed the NFL would do it this season -- you know, without asking the players for input since they knew most players wouldn't like it -- and Trump giggled in the shadows.

For sports teams and leagues, the solution here is simple whenever Trump tries to drag you closer to that tailpipe.

Just ignore him, like the Eagles.

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