US President Donald Trump took a short break from his verbal sparring with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to take aim at NFL players who protest police brutality against minorities.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump told a cheering Alabama crowd Friday night.
“You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country,” he added.
Trump made his outlandish remarks at a rally in Huntsville’s Von Braun Center, ostensibly in support of Republican senator Luther Strange who is running in a special Republican primary next week for the seat left vacant by Jeff Sessions’ appointment as Attorney General.
As he is wont to do, Trump went off-script in a meandering rant that touched on healthcare reform, his infamous wall along the southern border with Mexico and even his borderline-apocalyptic back-and-forth with North Korea’s “Rocket Man” Kim Jong-un.
Trump then attacked American football players who have made political protests by kneeling during the national anthem, a trend started by the then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The POTUS encouraged counter-protests by fans attending games who see players kneeling for the national anthem.
“But do you know what’s hurting the game more than that?” he said. “When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium.”
“I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.”
Needless to say, Trump’s inflammatory remarks didn’t go down well among current and former NFL players, with several asking Trump to stick to politics, including Redskins linebacker Zach Brown.
Others were quick to highlight the fact Trump’s presidential campaign received sizable donations from NFL franchise owners.
In August, the Cleveland Browns staged the largest protest to date, believed to be the first to also include white players. In response, the pre-game ceremony was boycotted by police and paramedics.
The signature protest has quickly gathered momentum, and has even spread to the minor leagues.