President Donald Trump says it's 'disgraceful' NBA players kneel during the national anthem

Chris Cwik
·4 min read

President Donald Trump has made his views on athletes kneeling well known. Throughout his tenure, Trump has used athletes protesting racial injustice and police brutality during the national anthem as a rallying cry for his supporters.

With a large majority of the NBA currently engaging in those protests, Trump once again reiterated his stance on the issue, telling Fox News he believes players taking a knee during the national anthem is “disgraceful.”

Trump’s comments read:

“I think it’s disgraceful. We work with [the NBA]. We work very hard trying to get them open. I was pushing them to get open. And then I see everyone kneeling during the anthem. It’s not acceptable to me. When I see them kneeling, I just turn off the game. I have no interest in the game.”

Trump, 74, then says, “Nobody has done better for our Black community than me. Nobody with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln. It’s true.”

He later turned his attention back to the protests, saying:

“When I see people kneeling during the playing and disrespecting our flag and disrespecting our national anthem, what I do, personally, is turn off the game. And the ratings for the basketball are way down, if you know. And I hear some others are way down, including baseball. Because all of the sudden, now baseball’s is in the act [of kneeling]. We have to stand up for our flag. We have to stand up for our country. We have to stand up for our anthem. And a lot of people agree with me. Hey, if I’m wrong, I’m going to lose an election. OK. And that’s OK with me. But I will always stand for our country and for our flag.”

Both the NBA and MLB saw huge ratings spikes the day their seasons restarted. The Washington Nationals and New York Yankees drew a record 4 million viewers on July 23. TNT saw its ratings double during the NBA’s opening night double-header. It’s possible ratings have declined since then, but fans wanted to see both leagues restart after months away due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Athletes have said protests are not about disrespecting the flag

While Trump used the line “disrespecting the flag,” athletes have consistently said the protests are not about that. When former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in 2016, he explained it was due to racial injustice and policy brutality in the United States, according to the NFL Network.

"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 told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. "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."

Other athletes who have taken a knee have echoed Kaepernick’s statement.

During the NFL offseason, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees drew plenty of criticism for making similar comments about kneeling athletes disrespecting the flag. Many who called out Brees said the quarterback was not listening to what the protest was actually about.

Brees, 41, eventually walked back his comments. He said he would still stand for the national anthem, but now understands and respects players who decide to take a knee.

NBA players don’t care if President Trump watches games

Trump said he would turn off a game if players took a knee, but NBA players don’t seem to mind. New Orleans Pelicans guard J.J. Redick told Yahoo Sports he didn’t think anyone in the NBA cared whether Trump watches games.

Redick may not be the only NBA player who feels that way. A number of NBA players and coaches — including LeBron James, Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich — are among Trump’s biggest critics.

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