Utah artist’s latest painting tackles controversy surrounding NFL anthem protests

Posted at 9:57 PM, Mar 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-04 23:57:30-05

AMERICAN FORK, Utah -- It's been said that art is in the eye of the beholder and everyone will have their own interpretation.

That rings true of a new painting of President Donald Trump created by Utah artist Jon McNaughton.

“It's Donald Trump standing on a football field, and he's picked up the American Flag that's been trampled,” McNaughton said. “It's got grass stains on it, and he's trying to wipe off some of the mud, and he's looking at everybody and saying 'What are you doing? Why did you do this?’"

McNaughton said he was a big fan of the National Football League until he saw NFL players take a knee during the National Anthem to protest racial inequality.

"It's more than a banner, it represents all the people that have sacrificed, that have died and spilled their blood for this country, and so that's why it's so offensive,” McNaughton said.

So he was thrilled when President Trump tweeted: "The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our country, flag and national anthem. NFL must respect this!"

"I was proud of him for doing that,” McNaughton said. “So I thought I'm going to paint something that represents how a lot of Americans feel about this last NFL football season."

Reaction is mixed depending on whether you agree with the players or the president.

"I'll either be considered somebody to be laughed at in the future, or they'll go 'Man this guy expressed how millions of Americans felt about this time in our history," he said.

Conservative Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity sides with the latter.

“The left loves art and especially taxpayer-funded art that is provocative,” Hannity tweeted. “Let's get their reaction to this." He then provided a link to the YouTube video of the flag painting.

"Sean's got a big voice and he always sees my work and he loves to talk about it, he loves to stir the pot like I do," McNaughton said.

This is not McNaughton's first brush with controversy.

"I do a lot of divisive type paintings, but I haven't seen anger for one of my paintings since I painted Obama stepping on the Constitution," he said.

Several major art critics have panned the painting, but McNaughton says history will decide whether his artwork is good or not.

"I've become kind of the whipping boy of the art world in a sense, but I don't care," he said.

McNaughton says he’s taken hundreds of orders for lithographs and more expensive and limited canvas prints since the painting was released last Tuesday.

If you’d like to check out his paintings, click here.