Donald Trump on Sunday sent a Super Bowl message to Americans that called on them to stand during the national anthem.
In a presidential message, Trump said that Americans “owe” the “greatest respect” to members of the Armed Forces, adding that their defense of the “American way of life” helps make the Super Bowl possible.
“We owe these heroes the greatest respect for defending our liberty and our American way of life,” Trump said in a statement released by the White House. “Their sacrifice is stitched into each star and every stripe of our Star-Spangled Banner. We hold them in our hearts and thank them for our freedom as we proudly stand for the National Anthem.”
Some players have kneeled as a symbolic protest of police brutality and racial inequality. Others kneeled this season in solidarity for the right to protest. Started by then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the summer of 2016, the kneeling protests have been controversial from the start, initially drawing criticism from those who viewed Kaepernick’s action as being offensive to the military (Kaepernick actually shifted the form of his protest from sitting during the anthem to kneeling in an effort to curtail this line of critique. And several veterans openly supported his protests). But as other players have joined along, the protests have taken on a new dimension over the past few months as President Trump has injected his opinions about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem into the public conversation; during a rally campaigning in Alabama for then-Sen. Luther Strange, Trump said any player protesting was a “son of a bitch” that should immediately be removed from the field for disrespecting the flag, the anthem, the military — and by extension America.
Sunday’s Super Bowl pits the New England Patriots against the Philadelphia Eagles. No players were expected to kneel during the anthem at the game.
Trump is currently visiting his private beach club, Mar-a-Lago, where he will host a watch party to see the New England Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles.
He also determined that he would break the last few years of presidential tradition by not giving a pre-Super Bowl interview.