Costas also noted that sowing divisiveness has often been President Trump's business plan

By Christian Holub
September 25, 2017 at 11:57 AM EDT

It was an explosive weekend for the sports world, as President Donald Trump came out with strong criticisms of NFL players who knelt during the national anthem. The anthem kneeling statement began last year by then-San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick as a protest against continued police brutality of African-Americans. After President Trump called out Kaepernick and fellow protestors as a “son of a bitch” at a campaign rally in Alabama Friday, several more players took up Kaepernick’s call and knelt during the anthem before their games Sunday. On CNN Monday, Bob Costas explained that it’s impossible to separate these protests — and the ongoing controversy around them — from race.

“Seventy percent of the players in the NFL, roughly, are African-American,” Costas explained. “Virtually every player who knelt in the initial stages of this was black. And the initial impetus for it came from Colin Kaepernick, and it was about police brutality and mistreatment of African-Americans. You can’t separate race from those things.”

Although NFL owners responded to President Trump’s provocation with a vague call for “unity,” Costas also noted that sewing such divisions has long been part of his business plan.

“You stir people’s emotions and resentments; that’s actually a business plan in certain quarters of the internet or cable television,” Costas said. “It’s a business plan, and it’s the way President Trump, for better or worse, approached his campaign and his presidency. To give him the extreme benefit of the doubt — extreme benefit of the doubt — you’d say he’s insensitive to the racial implications to make comments like this in Alabama. He likes cheap applause lines, and he delivered them. But do you want a president of the United States who, even if you give him the benefit of the doubt, is so tone-deaf to the racial implications of this?”

Watch the clip above.