President Donald Trump has decided to once again break with tradition: Trump will not participate in a Super Bowl interview with the network broadcasting the game, according to sources at both NBC and CNN. Sitting presidents have done the traditional pre-game interview for the past 14 years.
"He is not doing a Super Bowl interview," a White House official told the network earlier this week, according to CNN. As this year's Super Bowl broadcast network, NBC, would have conducted and aired the president's interview. Sources there told CNN their requests for a pre-Super Bowl interview with the president had so far been denied but that the invitation would remain open should Trump decide to change his mind.
While the presidential pre-game interview isn't necessarily a longstanding Super Bowl tradition — it reportedly began during George W. Bush's administration in 2004 — it was carried on by former President Barack Obama through all eight years of his presidency. Moreover, in the first year of his presidency Trump sat down for a pre-recorded interview with Bill O'Reilly of Fox when the network broadcast the Super Bowl last year.
While it's unclear exactly why the president has decided to opt out of sitting down for the traditional pre-Super Bowl interview, Trump has repeatedly bemoaned NBC as "fake news" and lashed out at NFL players who have kneeled during the National Anthem to protest social injustices.
In November, Trump responded to news of Today show host Matt Lauer's firing by asking, "When will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News"? According to Politico, Trump lashed out at NBC and its journalists earlier this week at an off-the-record pre-State of the Union lunch organized to give various media outlets a preview of the president's address. At the lunch, Trump reportedly told attendees that Chuck Todd, host of NBC's Meet the Press, becomes "a monster" on his show. The president also reportedly accused NBC News anchor Lester Holt of unfairly editing their May 2017 interview.
Trump has previously appeared to imply that NBC, which was once home to his reality TV show, owed him favorable coverage. "I made a fortune for NBC with The Apprentice," Trump told Fox News' Tucker Carlson in May. "I had a top show where they were doing horribly, and I had one of the most successful reality shows of all time. ... I was very good to NBC, and they are despicable — they're despicable in their coverage."
But Trump's recent criticism of the NFL — and the awkward questions it would undoubtedly have led to — may have also contributed to his decision to sit out the president's traditional pre-Super Bowl interview. In September, Trump characterized NFL players who kneeled during the National Anthem as a means of protesting racial inequality and other social injustices as "sons of b*tches." While speaking at a campaign rally for then-Alabama GOP Senate candidate Luther Strange Trump suggested NFL team owners should respond to kneeling players by saying, "Get that son of a b*tch off the field right now, he's fired."
While campaigning in 2016 Trump also criticized the NFL for implementing what he called "soft" rules regarding concussions. While speaking at a campaign rally in Florida, he characterized concussions as "a little ding on the head" and bragged that Trump supporters were tougher than the concussion protocol put in place to protect NFL players. In 2017, Trump renewed his complaint, saying concussion rules were "ruining the game." Researchers and medical professionals disagree, noting that concussions may cause lasting brain injuries or even degenerative brain diseases.
Assuming Trump does not take NBC up on its offer of an interview, this will be the first year since 2004 that the president has not been interviewed by the same network hosting the Super Bowl as part of pre-game coverage.