He sure knows how to make an entrance. President Trump surprised the packed Mercedes-Benz stadium Monday night before the College Football Playoff National Championship game between the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide. As always, Trump triggered a strong response from the crowd, inspiring an eruption of both cheers and jeers.
Trump took to the field as part of the celebration of the national anthem, the protest of which he has forcefully and repeatedly condemned over the last year.
After the announcer introduced the members of the ROTC of both UGA and Alabama, he announced the president. The stadium went wild, both loud cheers and applause ringing out along with jeers and boos until the performance of the anthem by the Zac Brown Band.
President Trump ratcheted up the debate over the national anthem protests in the NFL at a rally in September, when he suggested that NFL coaches should fire the "son of a b****" players who refuse to honor the flag.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b**** off the field right now. Out. He's fired! He's fired!'" said Trump to strong applause. "You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, 'That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.' And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country."
A few days after the president's condemnation of the protests, over 200 NFL players refused to stand for the flag. League executives made a concerted effort to tamp down the protests over the course of the season to mixed results.