On Sept 22 Trump called the players names (‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now.’). On Sept 24 the players kneeled. Trump said, it was not about race. I don’t know. But it certainly was about Trump.
Why not listening to the players themselves? Take eg Michael Thomas , does he speak like a `son of a bitch’? Or Osi Umenyiora  who made the American dream come true through talent and hard work and does not want to leave it to Trump to tell him what it means to be American.
Btw, I dont take your point that the players are part of the ruling elites.