Trump defends NFL tweets amid Puerto Rico crisis: 'I have plenty of time on my hands'


President Trump defended his barrage of tweets berating professional athletes as Puerto Rico reels in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Denying he was preoccupied by his feud with the National Football League, Trump said Tuesday, “I have plenty of time on my hands. All I do is work.”

The president has been embroiled in a five-day controversy stemming from his criticism of football players who kneel during the playing of the national anthem. Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, began demonstrating in 2016 to draw attention to police brutality and racial injustice, and other players followed suit.

At a rally Friday, Trump mused, “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.’”

In the days since, Trump has tweeted furiously about the issue, vilifying “certain players” who protest and demanding the NFL make a rule that players must stand during the playing of the national anthem.

“To me, the NFL situation is a very important situation,” Trump said Tuesday, rejecting the idea that his fixation on it has hobbled his response to Hurricane Maria.

The Category 4 storm made landfall in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, Sept. 20. Most of the island remains without power, and at least 16 people have died. Trump said Monday he will visit Puerto Rico, which he described as “literally destroyed,” next week.

“It’s the most difficult job because it’s on an island,” Trump said of aid efforts. “It’s on an island in the middle of the ocean. It’s out in the ocean. You can’t just drive your trucks there from other states.”

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