President Donald Trump, who in a Friday speech said he wished NFL owners would fire players who don’t stand for the national anthem, continued to press the issue on Twitter this morning.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called the president’s Friday remarks “divisive” and, in South Florida, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross issued a statement Saturday defending players who don’t stand for the anthem as “smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone.”
The protests began last year when then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand before a preseason game to protest police treatment of African Americans.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said at the time. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Trump ripped such protests during a rally in Alabama on Friday to promote Sen. Luther Strange in a special election.
“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.
Trump tweeted about the issue Saturday and again today.
“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!” Trump tweeted Saturday.
This morning, Trump suggested fans staying away from games would send a message to the league and players who don’t stand for the anthem.
“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!” Trump tweeted.
In another tweet this morning, the president said: “NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”
Dolphins owner Ross issued a statement Saturday siding with protesters over the president.
“Our country needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness,” Ross’s statement said. “We need to seek to understand each other and have civil discourse instead of condemnation and sound bites. I know our players who kneeled for the anthem and these are smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone. They wanted to start a conversation and are making a difference in our community, including working with law enforcement to bring people together. We all can benefit from learning, listening and respecting each other. Sports is a common denominator in our world. We all have the responsibility to use this platform to promote understanding, respect and equality.”