When I first heard Donald Trump’s rant against the NFL during a speech in Alabama, aside from being disgusted by what he said, one of the first things that went through my mind was, “This can’t be legal, can it?” After all, this isn’t the first time Trump’s gone after a private company or organization. He’s launched several attacks aimed at Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, over the last few months. Attacks that are undoubtedly linked to the fact that Bezos owns The Washington Post, a newspaper Trump clearly isn’t fond of because it dares to call out his never-ending stream of lies and incompetent behavior.
Then I saw a few people mention a federal law, 18 U.S. Code § 227:
(a)Whoever, being a covered government person, with the intent to influence, solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation, an employment decision or employment practice of any private entity—
- takes or withholds, or offers or threatens to take or withhold, an official act, or
- influences, or offers or threatens to influence, the official act of another,
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than 15 years, or both, and may be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.
(b)In this section, the term “covered government person” means—
- a Senator or Representative in, or a Delegate or Resident Commissioner to, the Congress
- an employee of either House of Congress; or
- the President, Vice President, an employee of the United States Postal Service or the Postal Regulatory Commission, or any other executive branch employee (as such term is defined under section 2105 of title 5, United States Code).
An article from Sports Illustrated argues that Trump’s remarks probably don’t violate the law due to the requirement that they be made “on the basis of partisan political affiliation”:
It seems like a stretch to argue that Trump’s directive to league officials and owners reflects his “intent to influence solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation.” Just the opposite, actually, a growing list of NFL owners who frequently support Republican political candidates have criticized Trump, a Republican, for his statements about protesting NFL players.
Except that argument doesn’t make sense. Simply because Trump’s remarks angered some Republicans doesn’t mean that they weren’t “partisan.” Not all Republicans agree with his travel ban, building a wall between the United States and Mexico, or repealing Obamacare, but that doesn’t mean that those issues aren’t extremely partisan.
He didn’t make his initial remarks during a press conference or an interview — he made them at a political rally for Republican Senator Luther Strange.
Trump wasn’t randomly in Alabama, he was there for a partisan political purpose. This was a speech he gave for a Republican, to a conservative crowd who had shown up prior to a GOP runoff election between Strange and Roy Moore.
There was nothing “politically neutral” about this event — it was 100 percent partisan.
And at the speech, along with the days since, Trump’s most definitely tried to “influence” or “threaten” a “private entity” as it relates to employment decisions.
He literally said the NFL should fire players who kneel!
I’m not a lawyer, but I’m not entirely sure how what he said in Alabama, and his subsequent remarks since, don’t qualify as a violation of this statute.
These were comments that were made at a partisan political rally, to a conservative crowd, where he used his political influence to try to intimidate a private entity into firing its employees who don’t do what he wants them to do. Since then he’s continued to attack that same private entity, calling on boycotts of the league until they pass rules requiring its employees to do what he wants them to do. He’s even mentioned how this is all going to be “bad for business” for the NFL, a clear indication that he knows his criticisms could cost them business.
In my opinion, Donald Trump’s attacks on the NFL absolutely should qualify as a violation of this federal law, which carries with it a possible prison sentence of 15 years. Will he ever likely see the inside of a prison? Probably not. Well, at least not for this crime — but I wholeheartedly disagree with those who say his attacks against the NFL, a private entity, don’t qualify as a violation of this law.