WH Spokeswoman: NFL Players Should Protest Police, Not The American Flag

White House press secretary White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House, in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017. Huckabee Sanders discussed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and other topics. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Carolyn Kaster/AP

In the first White House press briefing since President Donald Trump bashed NFL players who protest during the national anthem, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump and suggested protesting players find a new target.

“I think if the debate is really for them about police brutality, they should protest the officers on the field that are protecting them instead of the American flag,” Sanders told reporters at the White House.

That comment came after a reporter asked about a claim Sanders made earlier in the briefing that the “focus” of NFL players had “changed” from their original stated intent to protest police brutality.

Asked later if she was encouraging football players to protest the police, Sanders said she was not.

“That’s not what I’m saying,” Sanders insisted. “I was kind of pointing out the hypocrisy of the fact that if the goal is and the message is that of police brutality, which they’ve stated, then that doesn’t seem very appropriate to protest the American flag. I’m not sure how those two things would be combined.”

The White House press secretary defended Trump’s decision to wade into the issue, arguing that far from being a distraction, it’s “always appropriate” for the President to defend the flag, the national anthem and those who protect the U.S.

“He’s emphasizing something that should be unifying,” Sanders said.