On Friday night, President Donald Trump stumped for Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama, where he gave a speech during which he called out professional football players who protest during the national anthem.
“We are proud of our country. We respect our flag,” Trump said. “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. He is fired. He’s fired!'”
“That’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything we stand for,” Trump said, adding that while we have many freedoms, it’s still “totally disrespectful.”
If a fan sees a player take a knee, the fan should “leave the stadium… Pick up and leave,” Trump said Friday night, adding that fans wouldn’t be missing out.
“They are ruining the game,” Trump said, referring to the NFL’s efforts to curtail brain injuries.
Football player Colin Kaepernick has not been signed by a National Football League team this season; he notoriously sat down during the national anthem last year. This year, other players have taken a knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.
In July, President Trump reportedly took credit for Kaepernick’s lack of a job.
“It was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Do you believe that? I just saw that,” Trump had said.
Trump and Kaepernick have had some back-and-forth in the past, and Kaepernick has called Trump “openly racist.”
NFL players were outraged and posted their reactions on Twitter, including DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFL Players Association.
“We will never back down. We no longer can afford to stick to sports,” Smith wrote on Twitter, where he also posted a statement.
“This union, however, will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks,” it read.
Former running back and New Orleans Saints player Reggie Bush wrote: “[Kaepernick] we riding with you bro.”
“I can’t take anything our Celebrity in Chief says seriously,” wrote Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka. “He’s a real life clown/troll.”
Washington Redskins inside linebacker Zach Brown tweeted: “Trump stay in ur place… football have nothing to do wit u smh.”
Detroit Lions tight end Eric Ebron said: “Does anyone tell Trump to stick to politics like they tell us to stick to sports?”
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Chris Conley tweeted: “When will people learn that fear won’t make someone sit down. It quite possibly will make more stand up for what they believe in.”
And Minnesota Vikings running back Bishop Sankey said: “It’s a shame and disgrace when you have the President of the U.S. calling citizens of the country sons of bitches.”