Trump Suggests NFL Players Who Kneel “Shouldn’t Be in the Country”

“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing. You shouldn’t be there.”

NFL owners on Wednesday unveiled a new policy to fine teams whose players choose not to stand for the national anthem. If players want to protest the national anthem, they will have the option to do so in the locker room, away from cameras.

That wasn’t good enough for President Donald Trump. On Thursday, he went one step further, suggesting protesting players “shouldn’t be in the country.”

“I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms, but still I think it’s good,” Trump told Fox & Friends during an interview Thursday morning. He continued, “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing. You shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.” 

The league’s decision comes as a significant concession to Trump, who has repeatedly blasted kneeling players as unpatriotic. During a political rally in September, the president asked supporters, “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’?” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called the remarks “divisive.” 

The movement to protest police brutality and racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem first started in 2016 with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick has been without a team since the 2016 season.

The new policy has attracted mixed reactions, with some athletes expressing anger with league owners for approving the decision without the input of the players’ union. Many are also portraying the announcement as a missed opportunity to support its majority African American workforce.