President Donald Trump praised the NFL this week for its new rule requiring players on the field to stand for the national anthem, adding that those who protest during the anthem, “maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”
“I think that’s good. I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms, but still, I think it’s good,” the president told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” in an interview that was taped Wednesday and aired Thursday morning. “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. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. And the NFL owners did the right thing if that’s what they’ve done.”
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The NFL announced a new league policy on Wednesday that will require players on the field for the national anthem to stand for it but allow players to remain in their locker room or elsewhere off the field during the song if they choose. The league had drawn withering criticism from the president last season over players who knelt or otherwise protested, generally against racial injustice and police brutality, during the anthem.
Trump turned the issue of players protesting during the national anthem into a nationwide controversy last fall at an Alabama rally for then-Sen. Luther Strange, where he collectively called the players who kneel during the anthem a “son of a bitch” and said they should be removed from the NFL.
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Despite transforming the issue from a sports-page discussion to a new culture-war front, Trump said Wednesday that it was pressure from Americans, not just him, who forced the NFL to adopt its new policy.
“I think the people pushed it forward. This was not me. I brought it out. I think the people pushed it forward. This country’s very smart. We have very smart people,” the president said. “And, you know, that’s something ideally could have been taken care of when it first started. It would have been a lot easier. But if they did that, they’re doing the right thing.”
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