At a rally in Alabama on Friday night, President Donald Trump decried anthem protests by NFL players and also seemed to be critical of on-field penalties given for hard hits meant to protect the health of players.
Via a transcript of the comments posted by Bryan Graham of The Guardian, Trump gave his thoughts on the sport:
“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. “You know, some owner is gonna do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.
“When the NFL ratings are down massively, massively. The NFL ratings are down massively. Now the number one reason happens to be they like watching what’s happening .. .with yours truly. They like what’s happening. Because you know today if you hit too hard: 15 yards! Throw him out of the game! They had that last week.
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“I watched for a couple of minutes. Two guys, just really, beautiful tackle. Boom, 15 yards! The referee gets on television, his wife is sitting at home, she’s so proud of him. They’re running the game! They’re ruining the game. That’s what they want to do. They want to hit. They want to hit! It is hurting the game.
“But do you know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on the television and you see those players taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.”
Players like Colin Kaepernick, Michael Bennett, Malcolm Jenkins and others have repeatedly said they are not protesting the anthem itself, but rather the racial inequality and injustice that continue in this country. Oakland running back Marshawn Lynch has also been sitting during the anthem, but he has not expressly said why he is doing so.
This isn’t the first time Trump has mentioned the anthem protests; at a rally in March, he said NFL owners won’t sign Kaepernick because ">they’re afraid he would tweet about them and bring negative attention.
More NFL/anthem protests
• Robinson: Protesting players seek formal support from Goodell, NFL
• Current, former players react to Trump on Twitter: ‘fear won’t make someone sit down’
• NFL TV ratings debate: No one is winning the argument