Knee pain

We should be focused on the destruction in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and other hard-hit places in the Caribbean. And on health care, as the Senate prepares to take up legislation that not only repeals the main provisions of the Affordable Care Act but steps back from a commitment to coverage for poor Americans that was first extended as part of the Great Society more than 50 years ago.

But all that was eclipsed over the weekend by football players who chose to kneel during the national anthem and the president who has declared them Public Enemy No. 1.

President Trump, apparently bored after his visit to the UN and declaration there that he was prepared to destroy North Korea’s Rocket Man (along with the millions of people who live under his despotic rule), traveled to Alabama for a Friday night rally with die-hard supporters where he put a new enemy in his his sights.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,’” Trump said to the approving crowd, “efficiently combining a slur with a reality-TV catchphrase.”

His new punching bags are NFL players who have been kneeling during the anthem as a sign of protest against racial injustice. Trump said fans should boycott games until owners take action to stop the protests — he urged teams to fire or suspend the players.

The practice started last year with a lone player, Colin Kaepernick, then with the San Francisco 49ers. Kaepernick is currently unsigned, with some suggesting teams are wary of stirring further controversy by adding him to their roster. But he’s now hardly alone.

More than 130 players knelt, sat, or raised a fist in protest during the anthem at NFL games yesterday. That included more than a dozen members of the Patriots, while other members of the team, including star quarterback Tom Brady, locked arms with teammates while standing during the Star-Spangled Banner. Brady, a Trump pal who assiduously avoids taking stands on anything but football and diet products, said this morning that he thought Trump’s comments were “divisive.”

It’s hard to even say there is a single message to the protests at this point.

“It’s not difficult to see more NFL players joining what Colin Kaepernick started by kneeling during the anthem — not to protest police treatment of African-Americans, as Kaepernick did, but to protest Trump and assert their First Amendment rights,” wrote the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake.

Patriots defensive captain Devin McCourty was one of the Patriots who took a knee. But in a Herald story headlined, “Devin McCourty explains why Patriots knelt during national anthem,” his extensive comments don’t actually explain why they did it.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell shot back at Trump on Saturday. “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game, and all of our players,” he said in a statement.

Even friend-of-Trump Bob Kraft, who is part of a group of NFL owners who showered millions of dollars on Trump’s inaugural celebration, felt he couldn’t stay silent in the face of the latest bit of Trumpian bluster.

Kraft issued a statement saying he was “deeply disappointed with the tone of the comments” made by Trump. “Our players are intelligent, thoughtful, and care deeply about their community, and I support their right to peacefully effect social change and raise awareness in a manner they feel is most impactful,” Kraft said.

One thing is clear: The debate has “unmistakable racial undertones,” with Trump choosing to take up a high-profile fight with black athletes. It’s the kind of battle that plays well with his overwhelmingly white base, including those he went to energize in Alabama.

Whether it was his opening campaign salvo against Mexican rapists, his comments that there was blame all around for violence at the Charlottesville rally of white supremacists, or now his skirmish with black football players who say they are exercising their First Amendment rights, Trump has a knack for continually raising more than a little doubt about his blustery pronouncement that he is “the least racist person.”

Christopher Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media and a friend of Trump’s, said he doesn’t think the president is intent on sowing division, but simply wants to be seen as strong and willing to take on the establishment. Ruddy said Trump is someone who “enjoys a fight and a challenge.”

New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker wasn’t buying that distinction. “Never in modern times has an occupant of the Oval Office seemed to reject so thoroughly the nostrum that a president’s duty is to bring the country together,” he wrote. “Relentlessly pugnacious, energized by a fight, unwilling to let any slight go unanswered, Mr. Trump has made himself America’s apostle of anger, its deacon of divisiveness.”

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Rep. Colleen Garry of Dracut is pushing a bill that would make it illegal to say something false in a political ad. Those found guilty would forfeit the money in their political account. (Lowell Sun)

Republican Sen. Ryan Fattman of Webster is pushing legislation that would change the verdict “not guilty by reason of insanity” to “guilty but insane.” (Telegram & Gazette)

Carol Rose of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts says the protests against racism need to be turned into policy reform on Beacon Hill. (CommonWealth)

We may once have been, but we are no longer Taxachusetts. (Boston Globe)

Some lawmakers are pushing legislation that would set up sanctions short of incarceration for non-violent offenders who have dependent children. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Felix G. Arroyo, who was fired by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as his chief of health and human services following a sexual harassment complaint by a woman in Arroyo’s office, emphatically denied the charges in a filing last week with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. (Boston Globe)

A monument recognizing Lowell’s Cambodian population is unveiled. (Lowell Sun)

US Rep.Seth Moulton’s wedding over the weekend was a big deal for the North Shore. (Salem News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Parts of Puerto Rico are near desperation. (Washington Post)

Trump issues a new travel ban. (Time) Aides say the president believes by extending the ban to North Korea and Venezuela it can overcome judicial concerns of discrimination. (New York Times)

A Herald editorial urges Congress to work on a bipartisan fix to problems with the Affordable Care Act if the latest Republican plan goes down, as now seems likely.

ELECTIONS

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren on Friday plugged Worcester as the best location for Amazon’s second headquarters. (State House News)

Comedian Jimmy Tingle files paperwork to run for lieutenant governor as a Democrat. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Minority numbers in the accounting field don’t add up, says Amy Pitter. (CommonWealth)

A Globe editorial calls for a loosening of the state’s restrictive rules binding craft beer brewers to distributors.

EDUCATION

The association representing private special needs schools want a change in the background procedure that gives them less information on adults who abuse disabled children than public schools receive. (MetroWest Daily News)

The wife of the former director of the nonprofit Camp Farley in Mashpee was hired as the interim director of the children’s camp to replace her husband, who was ousted after being arrested for soliciting sex from two undercover police officers. (Cape Cod Times)

Afterschool programs work, says Ardith Wieworka. (CommonWealth)

Between parental fears of concussions and other injuries and the multitude of other sports offerings, high school football programs are having a tough time filling out their rosters. (MetroWest Daily News)

Two students are leading an effort to change the unofficial nickname — the Millionaires — of the Lenox Memorial Middle and High School. (Berkshire Eagle)

TRANSPORTATION

A two-part Globe Spotlight report, on Sunday and today, focuses on a lax system of oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration which lets drug dealers, corrupt politicians, and those with ties to terrorism register private planes in the US and shield their identity while failing to adequately monitor pilots, flight attendants, and airplane mechanics. The series stems from a fellowship created by the Globe’s Spotlight team and funded by private groups. (Media Nation)

State officials reopened Route 3 north near the Braintree split after replacing a bridge over the highway in less than 50 hours over the weekend. And they’ll do it again in two weeks on the southbound side. (Patriot Ledger)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Codfather’s day of reckoning is here, says Peter Shelley of the Conservation Law Foundation. (CommonWealth)

The endangered American burying beetle, which was believed to be disappearing from Nantucket, is on the rebound on the island, one of only two places east of the Mississippi where the once-ubiquitous bug resides. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

In a case that will have far-reaching consequences, the Supreme Judicial Court will consider whether courts can mandate that defendants remain drug-free as a condition of their probation. (Boston Globe)

Local and State Police arrested five people in a raid at the American Legion hall in Stoughton, which they said was being used for cocaine distribution and an illegal gambling ring. (The Enterprise)