Appearing to dial back on his criticism from Friday night, in which he called any National Football League player who knelt for the national anthem a “son of a bitch” who should lose his job, President Donald Trump told reporters Sunday that his critiques have “nothing to do with race.”
“We have a great country. We have great people representing our country, especially our soldiers, our first responders, and they should be treated with respect,” he said. “And when you get on your knee and you don’t respect the American flag or the anthem, that’s not being treated with respect. … No, this has nothing to do with race. I’ve never said anything about race.”
Since Sunday morning, Trump has tweeted or retweeted thoughts on the topic 10 times, claiming the NFL should “change policy” and not condone players who “do not stand proud for their national anthem or their country.” He also retweeted an image that called for a boycott of the NFL.
On Monday morning he applauded NASCAR and its supporters for saying “loud and clear” that they won’t disrespect the flag and claiming once again that the issue has nothing to do with race.
The morning after Trump insulted the players who knelt for the anthem and called on owners to fire the protesting players at a rally in Alabama Friday night, the head of the NFL released a statement criticizing the President’s “divisive comments.”
“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Saturday.
Despite Friday’s comments calling for the firing of players who knelt, Trump back-tracked on Sunday, saying he thinks Goodell can do what he wants.
“Look, he has to take his ideas and go with what he wants. I think it’s very disrespectful to our country. I think it’s very, very disrespectful to our flag,” he told reporters.
More than 100 players sat or knelt during the national anthem on Sunday, while other players, couches and owners locked arms during the song.