President Donald Trump has called for fans to boycott the NFL if players don’t stop ‘disrespecting’ the US by kneeling during the national anthem – as his rant continues to draw backlash from high profile athletes.
Trump had earlier denounced the protests by NFL players and rescinded a White House invitation for NBA champion Stephen Curry in a two day rant that targeted top professional athletes and brought swift condemnation from league executives and star players alike on Saturday.
Early Sunday morning, Trump continued his Twitter tirade and called for an NFL boycott.
‘If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!’ Trump tweeted.
‘…NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.’
Trump’s comments in a Friday night speech and a series of Saturday tweets drew sharp responses from some of the nation’s top athletes, with LeBron James calling the president a ‘bum.’
Trump started by announcing that Curry, the immensely popular two-time MVP for the Golden State Warriors, would not be welcome at the White House for the commemorative visit traditionally made by championship teams after Curry indicated he didn’t want to come.
Later, Trump reiterated what he said at a rally in Alabama the previous night – that NFL players who kneel for the national anthem should be fired.
Trump’s comments in a Friday night speech in Alabama (pictured above) and a series of Saturday tweets drew sharp responses from some of the nation’s top athletes
Trump started by announcing that Curry, the immensely popular two-time MVP for the Golden State Warriors, would not be welcome at the White House for the commemorative visit traditionally made by championship teams
Curry has since broken his silence, saying it was amazing how NBA players had rallied around each other.
‘That’s what this is about,’ Curry told the Washington Post. ‘I commend and applaud everyone that’s spoken up. That’s what we are supposed to do. It’s really important.’
Curry added that LeBron James’ statement was strong.
‘I think it’s bold, it’s courageous for any guy to speak up, let alone a guy that has as much to lose as LeBron does and other notable figures in the league. We all have to kind of stand as one the best we can,’ he said.
‘For me, the questions how things have gone all summer if I wanted to go to the White House or not, I told you yesterday being very transparent what my vote would have been in a meeting had we had one, based on just trying to let people know I didn’t want to be applauded for an accomplishment on the court when the guy that would be doing the patting on the back is somebody I don’t think respects the majority of Americans in this country.’
Trump doubled down on his criticism of kneeling NFL players in a pair of tweets Saturday
James also released a video Saturday, saying Trump has tried to divide the country. ‘He’s now using sports as the platform to try to divide us,’ James said. ‘We all know how much sports brings us together. … It’s not something I can be quiet about.’
Several NFL players, starting last season with then-San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have either knelt, sat or raised fists during the anthem to protest police treatment of blacks and social injustice. Last week at NFL games, four players sat or knelt during the anthem, and two raised fists while others stood by the protesters in support.
‘That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,’ Trump said, encouraging owners to act. He added: ‘Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired.’
On Saturday, Trump echoed his stance.
‘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,’ Trump tweeted. ‘If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!’
Several NFL players, starting last season with then-San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick (center), have either knelt, sat or raised fists during the anthem to protest police treatment of blacks and social injustice
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell strongly backed the players and criticized Trump for ‘an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL’ while several team owners issued similar statements. New York Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch said the comments were inappropriate and offensive. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who has supported the players who have knelt, said the country ‘needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness,’ and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York ripped Trump’s comments as ‘callous.’
Plenty of other current and former stars from across sports weighed in Saturday. Richard Sherman of Seattle Seahawks said the president’s behavior is ‘unacceptable and needs to be addressed.’
In his Friday remarks, Trump also bemoaned what he called a decline in violence in football, noting that it’s ‘not the same game’ because players are now either penalized or thrown out of games for aggressive tackles.
‘No man or woman should ever have to choose a job that forces them to surrender their rights,’ DeMaurice Smith, the NFL Players Association executive director, said Saturday. ‘No worker nor any athlete, professional or not, should be forced to become less than human when it comes to protecting their basic health and safety.’