Trump blasts NFL players protesting during anthem; calls for their suspension
At least five players silently demonstrated during the national anthem during a full slate of preseason NFL games on Thursday.
President Donald Trump reacted in anger Friday to NFL players kneeling or raising a fist during the national anthem, calling for players who "protest" to be suspended without pay.
"The NFL players are at it again - taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem," Trump wrote via Twitter. "Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their "outrage" at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love......"
In a subsequent post 14 minutes later, Trump continued "Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!"
Last month, Trump interjected his opinion to the national debate on player participation in the pregame playing of the national anthem as the NFL rolled back an anthem policy that stipulated players "stand, hand over heart" or remain in the locker room. That policy also gave latitude to teams to create their own rules, enforcable with fines and other discipline.
Before the start of the preseason, the NFL and NFLPA issued a joint statement outlining the plan to negotiate a policy. The NFLPA was not consulted upon release of the initial anthem policy.
When Dolphins wide receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson took a knee Thursday, and defensive end Robert Quinn stood with his fist raised, the NFL issued a statement.
"There has been no change in the NFL's policy regarding the national anthem," league spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement issued Thursday night. "The anthem will continue to be played before every game, and all player and non-player personnel on the field at that time are expected to stand during the presentation of the flag and performance of the anthem. Personnel who do not wish to do so can choose to remain in the locker room.
"We remain committed to working with the players to identify solutions and to continue making progress on important social issues affecting our communities."
Ravens linebacker Tim Williams stood in front of the team's bench with his back to the field. Other players retreated to the locker room, including Jaguars defensive back Jalen Ramsey, running back Leonard Fournette and three Seattle Seahawks: Branden Jackson, Quinton Jefferson and Duane Brown.