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Trump hopes NFL doesn’t come back if players kneel, he says

President Donald J. Trump waves to the crowd at the Army-Navy football game. (White House/Flickr)
August 11, 2020

President Donald Trump said during a Tuesday interview with Fox Sports Radio that he hoped members of the NFL football teams would not do kneel for the national anthem when the league’s season starts on Sept. 10 and said that if they do not stand for the anthem that he hopes the league doesn’t open.

“If they don’t stand for the national anthem, I hope they don’t open. But other than that, I’d love to see them open, and we’re doing everything possible for getting them open,” Trump told Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis. “They can protest in other ways. They shouldn’t protest our flag or our country.”

Trump offered his comments after Travis asked how likely it would be that the NFL season would begin as scheduled next month amid coronavirus concerns. Trump said the NFL teams wanted to start the season and that government has been advising them on the process towards a safe opening.

Asked if he had spoken with team owners and league officials about his anthem stance, Trump said, “They know my feelings very well, they’ve been expressed.”

Trump went on to say kneeling protests have been bad for television ratings.

“I think [kneeling protests] been horrible for basketball,” Trump said, referencing the NBA’s recent reopening. “Look at the basketball ratings, they’re down to very low numbers – people are angry about it. They don’t realize they have enough politics with guys like me, they don’t need more as they’re driving down or going up for the shot.”

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick initially started the anthem kneeling protests

Trump has been critical of anthem kneeling protests throughout his presidency.

The anthem protests have risen in popularity in recent months amid civil unrest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody at the end of May. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a June statement that the league was wrong for not listening to players earlier and “encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.”

Days later, Trump questioned Goddell’s comments in a tweet.

“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?