President Trump said he doesn’t want the upcoming NFL season to take place if players plan on kneeling for the national anthem.
“Well, they want to open, and they want to open badly, and they’ve been working with government,” Trump told Fox Sports Radio on Tuesday. “And I would say this, if they don’t stand for the national anthem, I hope they don’t open.
“But other than that, I want to see them open, and we’re doing everything possible for getting them open, and they can protest in other ways. They shouldn’t protest our flag or our country.”
The NFL is expected to host its season opener in less than a month. According to Front Office Sports, the league will not allow live performances of the anthem on the field this season — it will either be pre-recorded or sung by a performer from an off-site location.
In the past, coaches and team owners discouraged their players from kneeling, since many fans view it as offensive or, at the very least, controversial.
But the NFL recently announced that it would allow kneeling during its games and apologized to players, including former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who faced criticism for kneeling during past games.
“We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement a couple of months ago.
Dozens of NFL players are expected to kneel during the national anthem this season, just as most NBA players have knelt during their games.
But that could turn off viewers, said former NFL player Burgess Owens, since many look to sports as a reprieve from the day-to-day news cycle.
Owens said he won’t be the only American who will refuse to watch the NFL play if Kaepernick returns.
“They don’t care enough about their fans who love this country,” he said of the NFL. “If Goodell allows Kaepernick to come back, if they allow players to kneel during the national anthem, I’m willing to not watch the game.”