Donald Trump blasts NFL anthem protesters: ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field’
The president ripped into NFL players who have kneeled for the national anthem during a speech in Alabama on Friday night
Donald Trump launched a sensational attack on NFL players who have kneeled in protest of the national anthem during a speech in Alabama on Friday night, challenging the leagues owners to release anyone who engages in the movement started last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Wouldnt 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! Hes fired. Hes fired! the president said at a rally for Republican senator Luther Strange, who is running in a special election next week to remain in the seat vacated by attorney general Jeff Sessions.
You know, some owner is going to do that. Hes going to say, That guy that disrespects our flag, hes fired. And that owner, they dont know it [but] theyll be the most popular person in this country.
Trump went on to attribute the NFLs dip in TV ratings to rule changes implemented over the last few years to make the game less violent and limit head injuries.
The issue was thrust back into the spotlight on Thursday with the revelation that Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots star who killed himself in April while serving a life sentence for murder, suffered a severe case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the progressive degenerative brain disease that has been linked to repeated blows to the head.
The NFL ratings are down massively, Trump said. Now the No1 reason happens to be they like watching whats happening with yours truly. They like whats happening. Because you know today if you hit too hard: 15 yards! Throw him out of the game!
He added: Theyre ruining the game! Thats what they want to do. They want to hit. They want to hit! It is hurting the game.
The president then encouraged people attending NFL games to leave the stadium in counter-protest if they see a player kneeling during the anthem, which is traditionally performed before kickoff.
But do you know whats hurting the game more than that? he said. When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when theyre playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if its 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.
In a statement issued to the Guardian early Saturday morning, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell criticized Trumps divisive comments.
The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture, Goodell said. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.
DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said the union will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks.
Current and former players decried the presidents remarks. Minnesota Vikings running back Bishop Sankey tweeted: Its a shame and disgrace when you have the president of the US calling citizens of the country sons of a bitches.
When will people learn that fear wont make someone sit down, wrote Chris Conley, a wide receiver with the Kansas City Chiefs. It quite possibly will make more stand up for what they believe in.
Two-time All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy said: Its really sad man … our president is a asshole. Husain Abdullah, who played seven seasons with the Vikings and Chiefs, added: Now we know why [Kaepernick] aint playin.
Undaunted, Trump wrote on Twitter: If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOURE FIRED. Find something else to do!
Goodell, he wrote, was trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country. Tell them to stand!