Donald Trump said in an interview that quarterback Colin Kaepernick deserves another chance in the NFL, even after the president repeatedly criticized him for kneeling in protest against police brutality and racial inequality during the national anthem.
“If he deserves it, he should,” Trump said in answer to a question about Kaepernick returning to the National Football League, in an interview with Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. “If he has the playing ability. He was -- he started off great, and then he didn’t end up very great in terms of as a player.”
Trump waged a public campaign against the NFL protests, largely by black players, after he was elected president. At a campaign rally in September 2017 he said to “get that son of a bitch off the field” if players kneeled during the anthem, and in an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity in October 2017 said that the league should have repeatedly suspended Kaepernick until he stopped kneeling.
The president said in the Sinclair interview he remains opposed to athletes kneeling during the national anthem, even though his view of Kaepernick has shifted.
”There are plenty of things you can protest,” Trump said. “I don’t want to see people kneel for the national anthem, for the American flag. You stand, be proud, put your hand on your heart, salute if you’d like to do that. But you have to show respect.”
Trump tweeted on Saturday he “won’t be watching much anymore” of the U.S. national soccer teams after their governing body lifted a three-year-old ban on kneeling during the anthem.
“And it looks like the NFL is heading in that direction also, but not with me watching!” Trump added in a subsequent tweet.
Kaepernick opted out of his contract with San Francisco 49ers in March 2017 and hasn’t been signed by another team since. He filed a grievance against the league later that year, alleging collusion to keep him off a roster by team owners, and reached a settlement in early 2018 after an arbitrator ruled the case could go to trial.
He has continued his civil rights activism while also seeking a return to the league. Earlier this month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league was wrong not to acknowledge and accept the kneeling protests, and he said in an interview with ESPN this week that he would “encourage” a team to sign Kaepernick.
The issue of the player protests has taken on renewed significance since the death in police custody late last month of George Floyd, an African-American Minneapolis man, which touched off widespread demonstrations across the U.S. and in many other countries.
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