Washington (AFP) - Donald Trump has reiterated his demands for NFL players to stand during the national anthem, saying any player who kneels would be "disrespecting" the United States.
On Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted the league had botched its handling of player protests started by former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, indicating the league would now support "peaceful protests" by players.
Responding to Goodell's statement on Twitter late Sunday, Trump asked whether the NFL would now allow players to kneel during the anthem.
"Could it be even remotely possible that in Roger Goodell's rather interesting statement of peace and reconciliation, he was intimating that it would now be O.K. for the players to KNEEL, or not to stand, for the National Anthem, thereby disrespecting our Country & our Flag?" Trump asked in his post.
NFL players who have knelt during the playing of the national anthem have repeatedly made it clear they are protesting racial injustice and police brutality, and not, as Trump and other conservative critics suggest, the United States or the military.
Trump ignited a firestorm of controversy with the NFL in 2017 when he said Kaepernick and other players kneeling were "sons of bitches" who should be fired.
The NFL later banned players from taking a knee in a 2018 policy directive which required players to "stand and show respect for the flag" before kick-off. That policy was later put on hold.
With a recent wave of protests sweeping across the United States following the shocking death of a black man in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, Goodell said in a statement on Friday that the league had been wrong not to listen to the protests by its players.
"We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people," Goodell said.
"We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest."