President Donald Trump denied in an interview airing early Thursday that his focus on professional football players kneeling during the national anthem has been a distraction, but insisted that the NFL "cannot disrespect our country."
"They cannot disrespect our flag or our national anthem," Trump told Fox News' Pete Hegseth in an exclusive interview recorded Wednesday in Indiana, where the president unveiled his extensive tax reform plan. "They can't have people sitting down or kneeling down during our national anthem."
Trump pointed out that there has been more than 50 pieces of legislation passed since he took office in January, and Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has been approved.
"We have a much stronger military," he said. "We have strong borders now. We're going to get the wall. We're going to get all the things that we said. And now we are going as you said you know today is the big day. We are announcing the biggest tax cuts in the history of our country. There has been no distraction."
However, he told Hegseth, "the NFL cannot disrespect our country."
Trump said he thought it was a "terrible thing" when he saw former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. Kaepernick has said he "took the knee" to protest the treatment of blacks at the hands of police officers, notes Bleacher Report, but Trump told Hegseth it "builds up a little bit and a little bit more."
"I came out and made a statement in Alabama the other day," said Trump. "I said I think it's very disrespectful to our country and the world has picked it up. Guess what? Most people agree with me."
Now, Trump told Hegseth, "the NFL is in a box. They have to do something about it. They are disrespecting and when I say they, in a way it is they because they can stop it."
The league has rules for "everything," said Trump. "You can't dance in the end zone. You can't wear the pink socks relative to breast cancer... they have rules for everything. Why aren't they honoring this country by enforcing a rule that's been in existence for a long time?"
The players have to pay respect for the "honor of the country," continued Trump. "They have to respect our country. They have to respect our flag and our anthem."
Trump told Hegseth that he has many friends who are team owners, and "they are in a box."
"I have spoken to a couple of them," said Trump. "They say we are in a situation. We have to do something. I think they are afraid of their players you want to know the truth. Disgraceful. Got to be smart because you look at the ratings. The ratings are going way down. The stadiums are, I have seen a couple of stadiums over the last few weeks. There is a lot of empty seats. I couldn't believe it."
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.