President Donald Trump on Tuesday insisted that he was not “preoccupied” with NFL players and owners who protested by kneeling during the national anthem, though he has been on a tear against them since last week.
“I wasn’t preoccupied with the NFL. I was ashamed of what was taking place, because to me that was a very important moment,” Trump told reporters during a joint press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the White House.
Trump said the “NFL situation” is “very important” to him.
“I’ve heard that before, about, was I preoccupied? Not at all. I have plenty of time on my hands. All I do is work,” he said. “And to be honest with you, that’s an important function of working. It’s called respect for our country.”
“Many people have died,” he added, in an apparent pivot to defend his ongoing attacks on players who took a knee before the national anthem by citing U.S. military veterans. “Many, many people. Many people are so horribly injured.”
Trump said he recently visited the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and saw “so many great young people and their missing legs and their missing arms and they’ve been so badly injured.”
“And they were fighting for our country,” he said. “They were fighting for our flag. They were fighting for our national anthem. And for people to disrespect that by kneeling during the playing of our national anthem I think is disgraceful.”