President Donald Trump insists his criticism of National Football League players who kneel during renditions of the national anthem ― a means of protesting police brutality across the country ― is not racial in nature.
“This has nothing to do with race. I’ve never said anything about race,” Trump told reporters in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Sunday.
“I think the owners should do something about it. It’s very disrespectful to our flag and our country,” he added.
In a Friday speech in Alabama, Trump called NFL players who kneel “sons of bitches,” and then doubled down on his criticism in a series of follow-up posts on Twitter.
Following the example of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, NFL players around the country have taken to kneeling during the national anthem as a way to demonstrate against police brutality and racial injustice directed towards black Americans.
More than a hundred NFL players from several football teams kneeled or held arms in solidarity during Sunday’s opening ceremonies. Trump again weighed in on Twitter, expressing his disapproval with those who knelt.
“Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!” he wrote.
Over the weekend, Trump blasted several African-American sports figures in the NFL and the NBA, including Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry.
Some, like Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, shot back by calling Trump a “bum.”