“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast,” Trump wrote. “Fire or suspend!”
“NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN,” he continued in a second tweet. “Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”
The tweets continue a three-day crusade by the president to pressure the league to fire players who have taken a knee in an effort to protest police violence against minorities. Trump has poured fuel on the flame of a simmering culture war and has further pushed sports deep into the political arena.
Trump has been animated by this issue for more than a year, telling his supporters at a campaign rally in October 2016 that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was the first player to kneel in protest, was partly responsible for the drop in ratings.
“The NFL is way down in their ratings, two reasons, No. 1 is this politics they’re finding is a much rougher game than football and more exciting,” Trump said. “And the other reason is Kaepernick.”
NFL teams have been accused of blacklisting Kaepernick, who is now a free agent.
Trump seemed to suddenly fixate on the issue again during a rally in Alabama on Friday night, in which he suggested that coaches should get the “son of a b—-” players off the field if they continued to kneel. The comments prompted swift backlash from players, the league and coaches, many of whom condemned Trump’s comments.
On Saturday, the president didn’t back down, however. He continued to tweet his call for the league to discipline players for showing “total disrespect” for the country.
“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,” Trump said on Saturday. “If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
As this week’s games kick off Sunday, more players are expected to take a knee in protest after Trump’s comments.
But as the president continued his campaign against protesting NFL players, his comments reverberated across other sports, including baseball and basketball.
After Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, who had indicated that he would not go to the White House if invited by Trump, the president pre-emptively disinvited the team in a tweet on Saturday morning.
“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!” Trump said.
Other players including Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant sharply criticized Trump. And Saturday, Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to kneel during the national anthem.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)