As Puerto Rico reels from hurricane, Trump focuses on football

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

Since Hurricane Maria ripped across Puerto Rico last week, President Trump has tweeted or retweeted more than 50 messages. Just one was about the hurricane.

“Governor @RicardoRossello, We are with you and the people of Puerto Rico,” Trump tweeted Wednesday, hours after Maria made landfall on the U.S. territory. “Stay safe! #PRStrong.”


Since then, Trump has largely focused his Twitter attention on a dispute with National Football League players kneeling during the national anthem, with more than a dozen tweets or retweets related to the protests.

Slideshow: NFL players kneel during anthem as Trump fumes >>>

“The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race,” Trump tweeted early Monday in a flurry of Twitter posts defending his comments. “It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”


Many took notice of Trump’s passion for this issue and his relative silence on the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico.




The Category 4 storm battered Puerto Rico, killing at least 10 people, leaving millions without power and virtually the entire island without cell phone communications. Officials say that 95 percent of the wireless towers were knocked out of service. And a major dam in northwest Puerto Rico holding back the waters of Lake Guajataca suffered a large crack and is threatening to collapse.

“The devastation in Puerto Rico has set us back nearly 20 to 30 years,” Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s nonvoting representative in the U.S. Congress, said Sunday. “The destruction of properties, of flattened structures, of families without homes, of debris everywhere. The island’s greenery is gone.”

A group of Puerto Rico mayors convened an emergency meeting with Ricardo Rosselló, governor of Puerto Rico, on Saturday, describing “apocalyptic” conditions in their communities, many of which have run out of fuel and water.

Last week, Trump declared Puerto Rico a major disaster and pledged the full support of the U.S. government. While basic supplies have begun moving into Puerto Rico, extensive damage to airports, harbors and roads in Maria’s wake has left the island largely isolated — complicating federal relief efforts.



“We still need some more help. This is clearly a critical disaster in Puerto Rico,” Rosselló told the Washington Post on Sunday night. “It can’t be minimized and we can’t start overlooking us now that the storm passed, because the danger lurks.”

One America Appeal — the fundraising effort launched by former Presidents George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to support recovery efforts in the wake of recent hurricanes Harvey and Irma — has been expanded to include funds for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after Maria, the group said Monday.

Hillary Clinton urged the Trump administration to send the U.S. Navy to aid in the response.


Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long tweeted on Sunday morning that he was headed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands Monday to survey the damage.

“You hear about the destruction, but honestly, until we get out here and see it firsthand, it’s hard to frame it all up,” Mike Pruitt, a member of FEMA’s Incident Support Command, told USA Today over the weekend. “It’s absolutely devastating to see what they’ve lost.”


But as FEMA teams fanned out across the storm-ravaged island, Trump was escalating his attack on the NFL — calling on fans to boycott games until players who refuse to stand for the national anthem are fired.

“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our country, you will see change take place fast,” Trump tweeted early Sunday morning. “Fire or suspend!”

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