Donald Trump took time away from his busy schedule unearthing witch hunts and catching phantom spies to weigh in on another story he believe has national security implications. Talking to Fox & Friends’ Brian Kilmeade, The President of the United States discussed the NFL’s new policy of fining players who refuse to stand for the national anthem on the field. If they want to kneel, they have to do so in the locker room, the NFL has decreed.
“I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms. But still, I think it’s good,” Trump beamed in the interview, taped previous afternoon while Trump attended an anti-immigration event in New York.
“You have to stand proudly for national anthem, or shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there,” Trump added. “Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. And the NFL owners did the right thing.”
Kilmeade wondered if Trump would take credit for pushing “the story” forward.
“I think the people pushed it forward. This was not me,” Trump simpered. “I brought it out…This country is very smart, we have very smart people.”
Trump has been critical of the protests since they began during the 2016 preseason, when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick raised eyebrows — and some rankles — by taking a knee during the pregame playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The player said at the time, in the wake of multiple police shootings of unarmed black men: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
It’s not the first victory lap POTUS has taken regarding the NFL’s kneeling policies. In October, one day after league Commissioner Roger Goodell said publicly that “everyone should stand for the national anthem,” Trump said during an appearance on Fox News Channel’s Hannity: “I will tell you — you cannot disrespect our country, our flag, our anthem, you cannot do that.”
Those remarks also came the same week that high-profile Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, “There is no question in my mind that the National Football League and the Dallas Cowboys are going to stand up for the flag.” One day later, Vice President and former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence walked out on an Indianapolis Colts game he was attending after several members of the visiting 49ers knelt during the anthem. POTUS said the next day that it was not a stunt, adding that Pence was “receiving great praise for leaving game after the players showed such disrespect for country!”
The following week, Goodell held a news conference at which he responded to Trump’s outrage — sort of. Discussing the ongoing controversy, he noted that it’s time “to make sure we get back to football.” Without mentioning POTUS by name, by office or by preferred social media option, Goodell also reiterated that NFL players “should” stand for the national anthem but said they won’t be forced to do so.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.