Washington (AFP) - President Donald Trump criticised New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Friday, saying the NFL star was wrong to apologise for his comments about kneeling protests which ignited controversy.
Brees triggered an outcry on Wednesday after suggesting in an interview that NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest against racial injustice were being "disrespectful" to the US flag.
Team-mates, other NFL players and even NBA superstar LeBron James slammed Brees for the comments, which came as the United States has been gripped by a wave of nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.
Brees issued a lengthy apology for his comments on Thursday, saying he realised they had been "hurtful and insensitive."
However Brees's apology did not impress Trump, who in 2017 sparked uproar after describing NFL players who knelt during the anthem as "sons of bitches" who should be fired.
"I am a big fan of Drew Brees," Trump wrote on Twitter on Friday.
"I think he's truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag.
"OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high. We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag - NO KNEELING!"
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick launched the "take a knee" protests in 2016 to draw attention to police brutality and racial injustice.
It followed the deaths of several unarmed African-American men during confrontations with law enforcement.
Kaepernick was subsequently released by the 49ers in early 2017 and has not played in the NFL since.
However Kaepernick's protests have been repeatedly invoked since the death of George Floyd during his arrest by Minneapolis police on May 25.
Protesters across the country have dropped to one knee in a gesture that has come to symbolise the fight for racial equality.