Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Thursday that President Donald Trump "will win this fight" with the NFL over players protesting during the national anthem.
"The NFL has gone through two phases" in responding to the controversy over players kneeling during the pregame national anthem, Fleischer said on Fox News' "Fox and Friends." "First phase was internal, trying to have unity with the players, that's why you saw the owners lock arms with players."
"Here is the problem for the NFL," Fleischer continued. "Donald Trump will win this fight. That's why the NFL has to figure out a way to have fewer players every week to take a knee, otherwise the NFL is going to stay in hot water."
He also said that Trump's comments have unified players and owners, even those who supported Trump's campaign, saying he "created a whole lot more kneelers.
"The fans and sponsors don't like it. Most Americans don't like it. Forget Donald Trump for a minute. Everybody believes — almost everybody — for the national anthem place your hand over your heart and take off your hat. That's how we are raised, most people are in this country. Interesting stat: only 12 percent of NFL players didn't stand for the national anthem. 88 percent did. Still after all this fuss, 88 percent of players wanted to stand for the national anthem."
He added later, "there is a bigger group of players who don't want to deal with this issue. They want to play football and also want to respect the flag. That's the fight Donald Trump is picking. I will say I don't think these players weren't SOBs, I wish the president hadn't used those remarks. The president is right about the broad issue. These guys are thoughtful and they are trying to figure things out. I don't like the fact they decided to take a knee. I think it's wrong and disrespectful. They are struggling with something about race and trying to figure it out.
Fleischer concluded, "They are not SOBs. They are struggling."
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