Steve Smith Sr. ran past some of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in 16 seasons. Could he make a run on a grander yet more grueling stage?
The former Ravens and Carolina Panthers wide receiver took to Twitter on Friday afternoon to suggest his candidacy to become the next U.S. president after President Donald J. Trump took another shot at NFL players protesting racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.
Smith, who retired after the 2016 season and has been an analyst for the NFL Network, tweeted, “I rarely comment on politics but [President Trump] got me really thinking…If this dude can become leader of the free world, Damn I may have a chance for sure!”
In the same tweet, he added, “My name will be #Agent89 on the ballot too” – a reference to his nickname, which includes his jersey number when he played for the Ravens and Panthers.
Smith posted his tweet several hours after Trump appeared on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” for an impromptu interview on Friday morning. Delving into a wide range of topics, the president was asked if any NFL players had taken up his invitation to reach out to him about individuals he should pardon.
Trump intimated that the players who are protesting about the way they have been treated as people of color do not have an argument because of the amount of money they make per year. He claimed the players make $15 million a year when the average NFL salary is $2.1 million, according to Forbes in 2016.
“I love athletics, I love sports, but they shouldn’t get the politics involved,” he said. “When you’re in a stadium, broadcast national – you should be proud and have your hand up, do everything that is right and play really tough football. Once you leave the stadium, go do whatever you want to do. Run for office, do whatever.”
When the Fox News interviewer expressed shock that the president had not yet heard from players, Trump replied, “Maybe they called the staff. I have not personally heard from one. I don’t think it’s a real issue.”
Trump has hammered NFL players for their stance since last summer. He has threatened the league and players and suggested that players who protest should be kicked out of the country.
The league announced a new policy requiring players to either stand for the anthem or stay in the locker room. Players who continue to protest risk being fined. But that barely mollified Trump, who tweeted there should be “no escaping to Locker Rooms!”
When the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles informed the White House that few players would meet the president on June 4, he rescinded the invitation, and the White House said in a statement that the team “decided to abandon their fans.”