At a rally in Alabama on Friday night, US President Donald Trump says NFL players who protest during the national anthem should be fired.
Trump told a Republican rally in Alabama on Friday these actions showed “disrespect of our heritage”. Without mentioning him by name, Trump made reference to Colin Kaepernick and the protests against injustice toward African Americans the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback led last NFL season by taking a knee during the national anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired,'” Trump said.
“You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country.”
Trump also encouraged NFL fans to walk out of the stadium if they see players protesting during the pre-game anthem.
“When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem, the only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium,” he said.
“I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.”
Players like Colin Kaepernick, Michael Bennett, Malcolm Jenkins and others have repeatedly said they are not protesting the anthem itself, but rather the racial inequality and injustice that continue in this country. Oakland running back Marshawn Lynch has also been sitting during the anthem, but he has not expressly said why he is doing so.
Trump wishes NFL owners would tell anthem protesters “get that son of a bitch off the field right now” pic.twitter.com/gq4EH3lNoY
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) September 23, 2017
Television ratings for the NFL have been slipping since the beginning of the 2016 season.
The league and observers have blamed a combination of factors, including competing coverage of last year’s presidential election, more viewers dropping cable television, fans’ discomfort with the reports of head trauma and the anthem protests.