During a campaign rally in Alabama, President Trump went on a tirade against athletes who are protesting during the national anthem. While in Alabama to campaign for incumbent Sen. Luther Strange in his runoff election, Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”
Trump’s tirade was an apparent dig at former NFL player Colin Kaepernick who started the silent protest of taking a knee during the singing of the national anthem in 2016. Trump continued his rant by stating, “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.”
The president encouraged those in attendance at the rally and those that share his sentiments to stage their own counter protest. He said, “But do you know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.”
Along with Kaepernick, other NFL players who have taken a knee or sat in protest during the national anthem have been Marshawn Lynch, Marcus Peters, Michael Bennett, and more than a dozen Cleveland Browns players.