The National Football League on Wednesday banned players from kneeling during the national anthem, a move President Trump applauds.
The president, who was a vocal critic of the player protest throughout the last football season, said that maybe some of the players don’t really belong in America.
“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there, maybe they shouldn’t be in the country,” Trump said in an interview that aired Thursday morning on “Fox & Friends” on Fox News.
Trump said the NFL owners are “doing the right thing” to ban kneeling, giving angry Americans who objected the credit for prompting the move. “I think the people pushed it forward. This was not me,” he said. “This country is very smart. We have very smart people.”
Trump said he objected to a provision in the new rule that lets teams hold their players in lockers rooms until after the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner — “I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms” — but said of the overall rule, “Still, I think it’s good.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the rule, adopted unanimously by team owners, strikes the right chord.
“We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand — that’s all personnel — and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That’s something we think we owe. [But] we were also very sensitive to give players choices,” Goodall said.
NFL owners had reportedly considered instituting a 15-yard penalty against any team that had a player kneel during the anthem, but opted for a compromise.
The new rule comes after then-San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem in the 2016-2017 NFL season to protest police brutality. Last year, even more NFL players knelt during the anthem, and the issue echoed around the country, drawing condemnation from Trump.