Trump: "You cannot have people disrespecting our national anthem, our flag, our country"
Trump has tweeted more than two dozen times over the last several days about the NFL
President Donald Trump said Wednesday the NFL is “in a really bad box” and risks its business going “to hell,” days after he fueled a national rift by launching into unrelenting criticism of players’ National Anthem protests.
“The NFL is in a very bad box. You cannot have people disrespecting our national anthem, our flag, our country. And in my opinion, the NFL has to change or you know what’s going to happen, in my opinion, their business is going to go to hell,” Trump said outside the White House Wednesday as he prepared to board Marine One.
Trump has tweeted more than two dozen times over the last several days about the NFL and has called on team owners to fire players who kneel during the National Anthem, a protest aimed at drawing attention to police brutality and racial injustice.
The President’s criticism sparked a massive response from nearly every NFL team during football games on Sunday and Monday, with more players choosing to kneel and players, owners and coaches linking arms during or before the National Anthem in response to Trumps’ comments. Trump even drew stiff rebukes from several NFL owners who supported him during his presidential campaign and cut big checks to his inaugural committee.
Trump has also faced criticism for focusing the brunt of his tweets and public messaging on stirring the NFL controversy, rather than addressing the increasingly desperate situation in Puerto Rico, which was devastated by a hurricane. Trump pushed back on that during a news conference Tuesday, saying he was “not at all” preoccupied with the controversy.
Some NFL broadcasts have seen their ratings dip and Trump has said the drop in ratings is a result of the protests, though the connection is less than clear.
Trump added Wednesday that “there are plenty of places” where NFL players could protest.
“When they are protesting during a football game, I think they can find better places,” Trump said. “But they cannot do it during the National Anthem.”
Asked Wednesday whether his criticism undermines NFL players’ right to free speech as protected under the First Amendment, Trump said “no, not at all” and argued that most NFL fans agree with him.
“I mean, largely the fans agree. But we have to show total respect for our national anthem,” he said.
CNN’s Noah Gray contributed to this report.