President Donald Trump said Saturday that it was “very important” for NFL players to stand for the National Anthem during Sunday games and to “respect our flag and our country.”
Trump posted on Twitter:
Very important that NFL players STAND tomorrow, and always, for the playing of our National Anthem. Respect our Flag and our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017
The president ignited a storm last week by calling on NFL owners to fire players who refuse to stand for the anthem to protest police misconduct and other issues.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b–ch off the field right now,'” Trump told a crowd in Huntsville, Alabama. “He is fired. He’s fired!”
More than 200 players — joined by coaches and some team owners — responded with kneeling, standing arm-in-arm, remaining in locker rooms and issuing statements defending athletes and their First Amendment right to free expression.
Response from fans have ranged from support to outright hostility to the protests.
Trump has since doubled down on the initial comments, saying on Twitter that recalcitrant players should “find something else to do.”
The president later tweeted thanks for National Hockey League players and fans standing for the anthem:
19,000 RESPECTING our National Anthem! #StandForOurAnthem?? pic.twitter.com/czutyGaMQV
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017
In addition, NBC Sports commentator Bob Costas said Saturday that players should kneel after, not during, the National Anthem — since kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” offends many people.
“To me, perhaps the most effective thing to do would be to stand for the national anthem, but the second the last note is struck, take a knee,” Costas told CNN host Michael Smerconish.
“It actually causes ambivalent feelings, at best, among many people who are sympathetic to the issue, but see the anthem as representing a lot of different things including the country’s ideals and aspirations.
“The idea of linking protests, no matter how legitimate the issue you are protesting, directly to the National Anthem is not just offensive to the ‘love it or leave it’ crowd,” he said.