President Donald Trump would rather NFL not play if players kneel during anthem

President Donald Trump said he wants the NFL to play in 2020. But if players choose to kneel in protest during the national anthem, he'd rather the league not play. 

"(NFL officials) want to open and they want to open badly and they’ve been working with government," Trump said Tuesday in a radio interview with Clay Travis on Fox Sports' "Outkick The Coverage." "I would say this: If they don’t stand for the national anthem, I hope they don’t open. … But, other than that I’d love to see them open and we're doing everything possible for getting them open."

Since Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality and social injustice Trump has been defiant against it, labeling the act as disrespectful to the American flag. Trump’s speech at a 2017 Alabama rally — when he used profanity to describe protesting players and called for their firing — prompted hundreds of players that season to kneel. 

Protests over racial and social injustice have entered the sports world at high volume this summer after the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed after an arrest in which a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. For the NBA's restarted season in Orlando, Florida, all but two players have knelt during the national anthem. A similar display is expected in the NFL. 

"If they don’t stand for the flag and stand strongly, I'd be very happy if they didn’t open, " Trump reiterated. "That being said, I'd love to see them open."

President Donald Trump holds a team jersey as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (right) and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (left) look on at a 2017 ceremony honoring the Super Bowl LI champions. (Photo: Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports)

The NFL's kickoff is slated for Sept. 10 but there are concerns from the coronavirus pandemic. College football's fall season is in jeopardy, with the Big Ten inching towards a vote of postponement and other FBS leagues pushing their seasons back to the spring. 

Trump also took aim at NBA players in the Tuesday radio interview, saying the league is "in trouble" and players kneeling is "horrible for basketball." 

"You have to stand for your country," Trump said. "You're making millions so you have to have respect for your country. (Athletes) can protest in other ways, they shouldn’t protest our flag or our country."

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