Who exactly is the spoiled brat? Donald Trump or that kneeling NFL player?

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Staff photos of the Salt Lake Tribune staff. Paul Rolly.

So what exactly constitutes being a spoiled brat?

I’ve heard that term used to describe the professional football players who joined in unison to kneel during the national anthem before their games or skipped the ceremony altogether.

The denouncement has come from supporters of Donald Trump on talk radio or social media and basically echoes what the president has said at his rallies and in tweets about NFL players kneeling in protest.

I’m not sure that Trump has used the exact term “spoiled brat” in his rants against the players, but has said so in so many words. Newt Gingrich has called the players spoiled and privileged and when Trump called them SOBs at one rally, his backers answered with thunderous applause and approving cheers.

That response and the weeklong insults hurled at the players from Trump devotees are deeply troubling in what has been a troubling year since he took office.

It shows that the president’s base is essentially a mindless group that worships any inane hypothesis or assertion or schoolyard affront the president hurls, no matter how ridiculous or divorced from reality.

Their support is reactive. They are not thoughtful. They are like Pavlov’s dogs.

NFL players are rich, it’s true. And, for the most part, they live privileged lives.

But that wasn’t just handed to them. They may have been born with physical gifts, but those alone won’t get an athlete to the NFL. To reach the top of the football heap takes years of dedication and hard work. I defy anyone to point to any NFL player and show how he just emerged in the league by his passing, tackling or running ability without working for it — working to build up his body, his agility, his understanding and his execution of his team‘s schemes.

Earning your way to the top is not being a spoiled brat.

I thought conservatives liked rich people because their wealth was the consequence of their own ingenuity, their own grit, their own talents. Isn’t that what capitalism is all about? The person who works the hardest to develop the best product is the one who succeeds.

The players weren’t protesting to get something for themselves. It started out with quarterback Colin Kaepernick trying to bring attention to the number of unarmed African-American men who have been killed by police without consequence.

Kaepernick may have sacrificed his career for that bold stance. He currently doesn’t have an NFL job.

Later, the players rallied en masse in reaction to Trump’s disparagement of such protesters as unpatriotic and bums, which led to the president’s lemminglike supporters lining up to call them spoiled brats.

The players are not disrespecting the flag. They are making a statement about a serious problem that exists in their beloved country. The flag is a symbol, representing the freedoms we enjoy, including the freedom of speech, the freedom of expression and, yes, the freedom to protest.

Kneeling is not cowardly. It’s not being spoiled. It’s brave, because these players have a lot to lose if the actions they take lead to their banishment from their sport, not to mention the lucrative endorsement contracts many of them have.

So what constitutes being a spoiled brat?

How about a guy born to privilege, given millions of dollars by Daddy to expand an already lucrative construction business, filing numerous bankruptcies to get out of paying his debts and outright stiffing his subcontractors.

Does anyone come to mind who fits that description?

The disingenuous nature of Trump’s diatribes that the NFL players are disrespecting the flag and being unpatriotic (which has been a nice distraction from the special prosecutor’s Russian investigation) can be seen by some of his past comments.

The Washington Post reported that when Trump was a guest on David Letterman’s late-night show on Jan. 8, 2015, the two had the following conversation.

Letterman • “Here’s the example I’m always proud of as an American. People, to demonstrate, they think, ‘We’re really going to stick it the United States. We’re going to set fire to the flag.’”

Trump • “Yeah, right.”

Letterman • “And people get — ‘Oh, my God!’ Well, no. If that’s how you feel, go ahead and burn the flag. Because this country is far greater than that symbol, and that symbol is standing for freedom of expression.”

Trump • “Sure. You’re 100 percent right. ... I understand where you’re coming from. It’s terrific.”

Where did that Trump go?