For the 49er Faithful, Sunday was a rough night. Two Nick Mullens interceptions in critical moments made an eminently winnable primetime game against the Philadelphia Eagles an uphill slog, and in the end, it didn’t go the Niners’ way.
But through all the pain, there was one glorious moment: In the first quarter, rookie wide receiver, Brandon Aiyuk, turned a screen pass into a 40-yard touchdown dash, culminating in an acrobatic hurdle over a pouncing defender. Aiyuk, channeling Michael Jordan, went untouched as Eagles safety Marcus Epps grasped at air, and then managed to stay in bounds as he collapsed into the end zone.
The next day, however, the most exciting play of the Niners’ season took on a new meaning.
At about 6:30 p.m. West Coast time, President Trump’s official reelection Twitter account, @TeamTrump, shared the clip with Trump’s head superimposed over Aiyuk’s, and a coronavirus molecule superimposed over Epps’ head. Trump went untouched by the virus in his graceful, near-superhuman recovery. Get it?
No matter that Trump is still stricken with the deadly-serious, highly unpredictable disease. Or that, under his watch, more than 210,000 Americans have died of the virus — about one fifth of all recorded COVID-19 deaths in the world.
Team Trump shared the meme as the President was being transported via helicopter from Walter Reed Medical Center in Virginia, where he was receiving treatment, back to the White House. Over the course of the day — after his early morning spree of all-caps non-sequiturs — Trump repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus, writing on Twitter, “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.” He also shared posts comparing the risk of COVID-19 to the seasonal flu, which were subsequently censored by Facebook and Twitter for containing misinformation.
Late Monday, Team Trump’s Aiyuk meme was also taken down by Twitter. While the 49ers and the NFL have remained mum on the subject, it’s clear somebody was not OK with the way the video was being used. Instead of the video, the tweet now contains the message from Twitter, “This media has been disabled in response to a report from the copyright owner.”
The incident recalls the response of several musical artists, including Bay Area rocker Neil Young, to the Trump campaign using their music without their consent.
Aiyuk has not responded to the incident on social media. However, the rookie did give a hint as to his politics before the game on Sunday, when he and fellow wide receiver Deebo Samuel sat on the bench during the national anthem in protest of police brutality.