Donald Trump’s message to athletes could not be more clear: stick to sports.
The US president resumed his broadside against professional sportspeople who have kneeled for the national anthem in protest of racial inequality, casting them as out-of-touch millionaires who should have no quarrel with the country that’s enriched them in a live interview on Fox & Friends that aired Friday morning.
“They’re all saying, ‘Oh, it has nothing to do with the flag, it’s the way we’ve been treated,’ Trump said. “In the meantime, they’re making $15m a year. Look, I’m all for the athletes. I think it’s great. I love athletics, I love sports, but they shouldn’t get the politics involved.
“When you’re in a stadium and they broadcast that national anthem, you got to stand and you got to be proud and you got to have your hand up and you got to do everything that’s right, then go out and play really tough football.
“And once you leave that stadium, go and do whatever you want to do. Run for office, do whatever.”
Trump made news earlier this month when he commuted the prison sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old great grandmother who had been serving a life sentence for selling drugs, following a lobbying effort by Kim Kardashian that saw the celebrity meet with the president in the Oval Office.
The president described his pardon of Johnson as a “beautiful scene” and repeated his callout to kneeling athletes from last week, when he asked the protesting athletes to recommend people for him to pardon.
NFL players, indirectly: ‘You have somebody that’s aggrieved … let me know now about it, I’ll look at it If they’re aggrieved, I’ll pardon them, I’ll let them out.’”
The president has returned to the issue of the national anthem time and again since first seizing on it last fall in Alabama, when he urged the NFL’s owners to cut loose any player who engaged in the protest of social injustice.
He lauded the league’s new guidelines, announced last month, which prohibit players from sitting or taking a knee on the field during the pre-game performance of the Star-Spangled Banner, saying that “maybe you shouldn’t be in the country” if you don’t stand for the anthem.
“I think that’s good,” Trump said in May. “I don’t think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it’s good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. Or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.
“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem and the NFL owners did the right thing if that’s what they’ve done.”