President Trump’s aides came to his defense Sunday — supporting his ongoing criticism of players in the NFL and NBA kneeling during the national anthem.
“I think what the president is saying is that the owners should have a rule that players should have to stand in respect for the national anthem,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “This isn’t about Democrats, it’s not about Republicans, it’s not about race, it’s not about free speech.”
He continued, “They can do free speech on their own time.”
Mnuchin was one of several members of Trump’s team that backed the president’s attacks on the silent protest sweeping the sports world, which started last year when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick frequently took a knee in an effort to draw attention to police brutality against African Americans.
Marc Short, director of the White House’s Legislative Affairs, said Trump’s stance was the same as the “vast majority” of Americans, who he said believe that kneeling during the national anthem is disrespectful.
“The president believes it is his role to improve race relations,” Short said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Their comments come three days after Trump tore into Kaepernick-style protests at a rally in Alabama for Sen. Luther Strange.
“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 at the rally.
He doubled down on his comments Sunday, taking to Twitter to criticize the NFL’s ratings and encourage fans to boycott upcoming games.
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
...NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
“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!” he tweeted.